Higher number of Christmas Cheer applicants this year
There is no question that the holiday season will be financially difficult for many families throughout Southwest Florida. This week The Salvation Army of Lee County reported that it is receiving a record number of applicants to the Christmas Cheer Program.
The organization has seen a 68 percent increase in the number of people applying for the Christmas Cheer Program. The annual program provides toys and food bags to families for Christmas.
“Christmas Cheer is when needy families register to get toys for children for Christmas and food bag. It’s everything to make a nice meal,” said Megan Spears, spokesperson from The Salvation Army.
On Oct. 29, there were 603 applications. The following day 450 people submitted applications, and on Friday there were 368.
“Over the three-day registration period, we took in 1,421 applications, of which 51 percent were new participants,” said Maj. Art Penhale from the corps office.
In order to qualify for the program, families need to fill out an application. Adults need to show a valid driver’s license and Social Security card. Children need a Social Security card or birth certificate, and families need to show proof of income and benefits.
“They come and fill out an application and bring proof of how old children are … and they make an appointment,” said Spears.
She also said some of the applicants to the Christmas Cheer Program are volunteering their time as bell ringers in The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Program.
The charitable organization is forecasting an average of 400 people applying for Christmas Cheer each day this season.
“This is a reflection of the times in which we live. The economy on a local and national level has affected our community and struggling to make ends meet has become a lifestyle to many,” said Penhale.
Future Christmas Cheer registration dates are today, 9 a.m-noon; Saturday, 9 a.m.-noon; and Nov. 24, 9 a.m.-noon.
For information about the program or to volunteer, contact The Salvation Army at 278-1551.