By Ryan Cornell
The Salvation Army of Front Royal is seeing an increase in families requesting food, clothing and toys this season. Lt. Pradeep Ramaji, head of the Front Royal corps, said it's the most requests he's ever received in their five years of operation.
The corps has received and approved 151 applications for Thanksgiving food boxes and received another 16 applications after the deadline passed, compared to 130 boxes that were given out last year. It has received 287 applications for Christmas food boxes, which he said is 37 more than last year's amount and 87 more than in 2011.
Out of the 287 low-income families who qualify for these Christmas food boxes, he said about 500 children are signed up for the Angel Tree program to receive toys.
"Especially for children, they go to school and they hear, 'I got this' and 'I got that,'" Ramaji said. "Their parents are not able to afford those things for them."
Because of the skyrocketing number of requests, the organization is in need of volunteers and donations more than ever before.
People can donate nonperishable food and frozen turkeys to the Front Royal Salvation Army office at 357 Cloud St. from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. or they can give money to the bell ringers and their red kettles stationed at five locations in the town. They can also donate money to the corps online at onlineredkettle.org/frontroyalva.
Food will be collected at a Stuff the Truck food drive held outside the Front Royal WalMart on Nov. 29 and 30.
For more information about the Front Royal corps, visit virginiasalvationarmy.org/frontroyalva or contact 540-635-4020.
Dick Cooley has served as treasurer for the Salvation Army of Shenandoah County for the past two decades. He said he's also noticed a slight increase in the number of people seeking assistance this year.
He said the unit is constantly searching for more volunteers, especially for bell ringers in Strasburg, and said that nearly all of their volunteers are senior citizens.
"You don't see, and I think this is a sign of the times, you don't see many younger people pitching in to help," he said. "They're more takers than they are givers."
Bell ringers will start collecting donations in Strasburg, Woodstock and Mount Jackson beginning the day after Thanksgiving, which he said provides 50 percent of the unit's budget.
Cooley, who handles all of the contributions to the Salvation Army, said that 90 percent of anything that goes into the red kettles stays in Shenandoah County.
For more information on how to help the Shenandoah County Salvation Army, contact Cooley at 540-459-5192 or mail contributions to 617 Kestrel Court, Woodstock.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org