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Salvation Army serving more local residents this year

November 03, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - A shaky stock market, businesses laying off workers or closing, high gas prices -- each of these factors can have an effect on the health and stability of a community.

But this year, many people are reeling from "all of the above," and agencies such as The Salvation Army in Hagerstown also are feeling the pinch.

Kitty Barger, director of social services for The Salvation Army, said this year might turn out to be one for the record books.

"We are seeing a surge," Barger said of requests as the busy holiday season gets under way. More than 400 families had applied for food and toys as of Wednesday, she said.

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Barger, who has worked for the agency for 23 years, said that figure was about 300 families at this time last year.

"In the first two hours of the first day we were open for applications, we had signed up 108 people, many of whom are new folks to the agency," Barger said.

Based on early numbers, Barger predicts as many as 1,100 people could sign up for aid this year.

Barger said the number of working poor -- those who have jobs but have problems paying high rents and medical expenses -- grows each year.

"It's terrible this year, and it is only getting worse," Barger said.

Barger said the public can help in many ways.

"People can participate in the angel tag program, which is available at Kmart, Wal-Mart and the Valley Mall," Barger said. People may purchase toys for a child by age and gender, and may request a toy to be distributed just before Christmas.

The Salvation Army also works with the Marine Corps League's Toys for Tots each year, Barger said.

Monetary donations to The Salvation Army may be used to purchase food items. Nonperishable food also may be donated to the agency.

Churches, clubs, companies and citizens may call 301-733-2440 to find out how they can help or to be matched with a family in need, Barger said.

Applications for assistance through The Salvation Army will be accepted through Nov. 11, Barger said. The deadline is Friday, but Nov. 10 and 11 are built-in late days.

On those days, applications will be taken from 9 to 11 a.m. and from 1 to 3 p.m. Identification and Social Security cards for each family member are needed, as are proof of income, rent or mortgage papers, birth certificates or records of immunizations.

"I am a nervous wreck on giveaway day," Barger said. This year, that is Dec. 22 at the former McCrory's building in Long Meadow Shopping Center.

Volunteers are needed to keep people coming through the distribution stations at a rate of about 80 people an hour.

At the end of the day, the tables are empty and the volunteers are tired, but the applicants have been served, Barger said.

"That's the most rewarding part," she said.

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