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Salvation Army Christmas Cheer program sign-ups to begin

By Staff | Oct 24, 2011

Registration for the annual Christmas Cheer program, which is conducted by the Salvation Army, will begin Wednesday, Oct. 26, at 9 a.m.

The Christmas Cheer program began 60 years ago for families in Lee County, and has seen an increase over the past couple of years.

In 2004, the Salvation Army signed up 1,900 families for the Christmas Cheer program and 3,700 families in 2007.

Last year more than 55 percent of the individuals who asked for help had never sought assistance before. Individuals began lining up as early as 3 a.m. last year to seek assistance, which amounted to nearly 640 families on the first day.

A total of 5,122 families were served last year, which included 17,822 individuals and 10,948 children. The assistance included 46,701 gifts for children and 4,271 gifts to nursing homes, which equaled a total of 13,499 volunteer hours.

The biggest obstacle for the Salvation Army is trying to meet the need of the community with a decline in funding and donations every year.

To help meet the need, the Salvation Army is currently looking for individuals who wish to help in the annual Red Kettle Campaign, which funds the Christmas Cheer program. Those who want to volunteer their time for bell ringing should call 239-278-1551.

Merrilu Bennet, resource and media specialist for the Salvation Army of Lee, Hendry and Glades counties, said they have more than 60 locations for the Red Kettle Campaign. Last year, they did not have enough people sign up for each one of the locations; therefore some of the locations went without the red kettle.

“We will work with people to schedule something around their availability and location,” she said.

The goal for the Red Kettle Campaign will be announced on Nov. 17 during an event at Edison Mall.

Registration for the Christmas Cheer program can be done on Oct. 26, 27 and 28, from 9 a.m. until noon; Nov. 3, from 9 a.m. until noon and from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m.; and Nov. 4, 12 and 21, from 9 a.m. until noon. It will take place at the Salvation Army located at 10921 McGregor Blvd.

Applications will not be accepted without a valid Florida driver’s license or a Lee County picture ID and Social Security Card for adults, a Social Security Card or birth certificate for each child and proof of income and benefits.

Bennett said they provide children with toys and gifts and families with traditional food baskets and a holiday meal through the Christmas Cheer program.

She said once the families sign up and everything is checked, they will be signed up to visit the Salvation Army warehouse. Bennett said the families will then visit the warehouse and pick out their own gifts for their children, along with picking up their food basket.

“We are here, please don’t be afraid to ask for help,” she said. “I feel fortunate we can help.”