Families need holiday help

December 06, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Hundreds of Eastern Panhandle children could have nothing under the Christmas tree to unwrap this year, prompting community organizations on Friday to issue a "desperate plea" for the public's help with requests for assistance.

As of Friday, the requests of only 20 of about 900 children in The Salvation Army's Angel Tree program this year have been met, Capt. Melvin Welch said in a press conference held by members of the Eastern Panhandle Christmas Clearinghouse.

"We just don't know what we're going to do at this point," Welch said about a week before the organization is expected to distribute food and gifts to families.

More than 400 children within families who have asked for help through the Clearinghouse have yet to be "adopted," said Kathryn Boylan, who has helped coordinate the collaborative gift-giving effort.


"We are having tremendous difficulty this year in meeting the increased need," Boylan said.

"We have many families and many children in the Eastern Panhandle that will not have Christmas this year if individuals don't ... step up and help us out."

Without additional donations, 80 to 100 children in Jefferson County will not be helped, said Lisa Carper, who coordinates the Jefferson County Shoe and Coat Fund.

"Typically, I've received over $10,000 ... but this year, I'm at about $2,000," Carper said. "It's really been a stunning decline ... And the stories that people are telling me now are very real. We're not talking about the chronic poverty issues we have in this community."

As the economy slipped into a recession in the last year, Welch said he has seen the number of people being served by The Salvation Army double to about 1,900 people.

"We can not keep food in our pantry," Welch said.

Holiday season kettle collections are down 20 percent nationwide and the number of volunteers also has dropped, Welch said.

"A dollar or a can of food, whatever anybody can give would be very much appreciated," Boylan said.

Through the Clearinghouse, "we have made a concerted effort to avoid duplication," Carper said.

Warm the Children coordinator Pam Cook said donations to the warm-clothing initiative were off by about 50 percent of the goal of about $60,000 in donations.

Boylan said Cash for Kids, sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Resources and City National Bank, has raised about $2,000, down from tha average of $8,000 to $10,000.

Boylan said she was advised that Toys for Tots has stopped taking applications and was not serving as many children as last year.

How to help

oTo adopt a family through the Eastern Panhandle Christmas Clearinghouse, individuals may contact Kathryn A. Boylan, Community Services Manager at the Department of Health and Human Resources office off Mid Atlantic Parkway, at 304-267-0118 or Lorinda Bowers at 304-267-0100, ext. 250

oFinancial donations may be made to United Way of the Eastern Panhandle at 222 W. King St., Martinsburg, WV 25401

oLisa Carper, coordinator of the Jefferson County Shoe and Coat Fund, can be reached at 304-728-9235. Donations may be mailed to her attention at 110 Mordington Ave., Charles Town, WV 25414

oIndividuals interested in adopting children in The Salvation Army's Angel Tree program or making a food donation to the agency may contact Capt. Melvin Welch at 304-267-4612.

oPam Cook of Warm the Children may be reached at 304-263-8931.

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