WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - While many families will spend time together for Thanksgiving and Christmas, others are not as fortunate. Many people are on their own, without a home or family, and they need help from others to stay warm and eat. The Salvation Army provides that food and shelter every day of the year, but it may be even more important during the holidays.
Whether it's dropping coins in the red kettle, answering an angel's wish or taking the coat off their back so someone else can be warm, thousands will help the Salvation Army make Christmas brighter for thousands of families in southeastern North Carolina.
"As we look at the numbers this Christmas, we think it's going to be comparable or maybe slightly above the number of families in 2012," said Major Richard Watts of the Salvation Army in Wilmington. "So we're thinking it might be around 5300 families, which translates to roughly 25,000 people."
The Salvation Army works with several toy drives during the holiday season, like the Marine Corps "Toys for Tots" campaign and "Holiday Smiles Toy Drive", sponsored by WECT & Fox Wilmington. Thousands of toys will be donated to those efforts, and more will be bought with financial contributions. According to Major Watts, the 12-16 age group seems to be one that is lacking in donated toys and other gift ideas.
Donations like toys and the "Coats for the Coatless" program are essential to fill the seasonal needs, but the Salvation Army offers help to the less fortunate every day. The downtown shelter provides beds for dozens of men, women and families, and warm meals are served at the beginning and end of every day. According to Major Watts, specific donations to the shelter will help serve the community long past the holiday season.
"Most of our pillows (in the men's shelter) are worn out," he said during a walking tour of the facility along Third Street in downtown Wilmington. "Many men bring their own blankets. But, if we could offer everyone here a good pillow, blanket and sheets when they come in to our shelter, that would certainly be a good gift for Christmas."
The same can be said for the women's dorm area in the shelter. The family shelter has several cribs so families with children won't be separated overnight. A crib no longer used by a family could be put to good use in giving a baby a soft, comfortable place to rest.
So as you decide how to help the Salvation Army this Christmas season, with a toy, cash or a coat, remember those who might be spending Christmas and many more nights in the warmth of the local shelter. A quick look at a local retail store shows simple sheets for a single bed costs around $10. Pillows and blankets are between $6 and $7. A total of about $25 can provide many warm nights for someone who is struggling in the shelter.
"If you go to a local store to buy some sheets and pillows, just drop them off here at the shelter," Major Watts said. "We will get rid of the old stuff and put the brand new stuff on the beds, to ensure that someone will have a Merry Christmas."