"When they come in and sit down with us [to apply], it's usually either we pay our light bill or we get our kids Christmas presents," said Capt. Nancy Fuller with the local Salvation Army, which will be registering applicants next week for either its Angel Tree program or the Toys for Tots campaign. "A lot of times that's the bottom line. Sometimes you've got those who kind of come to us that don't really need us but they just feel like they want the help and that kind of thing. But there are some really desperate people in the Bartow County area that our Christmas [assistance] is their only Christmas."
Parents and legal guardians will be able to apply for assistance at The Salvation Army's office at 16 Felton Place Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Tuesday, sign-ups also will be under way from 5 to 7 p.m. They will need to provide a photo ID, utility bill to verify address, and a Social Security card or Medicaid card for every household member.
The Salvation Army currently is recruiting sites, such as businesses and churches, to feature artificial Christmas trees for its Angel Tree program. Once the trees are installed at the beginning of November, they will be adorned with paper ornaments containing a child's first name and age and several suggested gifts. After selecting the ornament, an anonymous donor will purchase three toys and deliver them unwrapped by Dec. 17 to the tree location or The Salvation Army at 16 Felton Place or 17 Apex Drive.
The ability to partner with Toys for Tots has been a "godsend" for The Salvation Army, enabling the nonprofit to meet the community's growing need.
"The Salvation Army is teaming up again this year with Toys for Tots. ... So that gives us an opportunity to even take on more applicants," Fuller said. "Last year, we did over 600 families between the two of us. Toys for Tots was very generous in helping last year. We took all the applications, but then we gave 300 of them to Toys for Tots to fill. Christmas is a time that we're not going to turn anybody down. We're just not going to. That's why I don't require income and expenses. That's the one time of the year that we're in the public eye. And if somebody needs help and they've come to us to ask for help, we're going to give it.
"[Partnering with Toys for Tots] has been a godsend. We've had to literally buy toys in the past few years. This is the first year that we're stepping out in faith and we're not going to spend one dime on buying toys. We're going to just depend totally on the community and Toys for Tots. [Last year] it went wonderful. It went really, really well. We're hoping that the same will happen this year. ... I think [the need] is going to be more. I think the economy has just gone [more sour]. So we're expecting even more than the 600 we helped last year."
Echoing Fuller's comments, Richard Goodson -- Bartow County assistant coordinator for the Toys for Tots campaign -- anticipates the demand for Christmas assistance to be greater this holiday season.
"There's a tremendous need," he said. "Last year, we gave out right at a little over 4,000 children toys. And with the economy being even worse this year than it was last year, we'll probably have to have more toys to meet the max that we're going to have to come up with this year."
Along with recruiting volunteers for their toy drive, Toys for Tots organizers are seeking businesses to serve as collection sites for the public. Currently, Target and Hooters are displaying drop-off boxes, Goodson said. All of the containers will be marked "Bartow County," with Goodson and Royce Coker's names and phone numbers.
"Every dollar and every toy collected is spent in Bartow County," Goodson said. "Not one penny and not one toy will leave here unless we have everything accommodated here first. The boxes are marked with Bartow County with my name and Royce's name and number on them.
"If they see one that's not marked, I would ask to make sure it is [for] Bartow County recipients. ... I hope that Bartow County steps up like they did last year because we truly had an abundance of toys and helped many, many, many children and we couldn't have done it without the people here in Bartow County."
Once collected, the toys will be dispersed to families at a to-be-determined date and location in late December. While this operation supports the Adairsville community's Toys for Tots campaign, Goodson said they are different offerings. Further details about Adairsville's Toys for Tots drive can be obtained by calling Adairsville Church of God at 770-773-3264. The Adairsville campaign will sign up applicants Dec. 1 and distribute toys at the Adairsville Church of God Dec. 17.
For more information about Bartow's Toys for Tots program, call Goodson at 404-593-3547 or Coker at 770-880-6316. To participate in The Salvation Army's Angel Tree offering, call 770-387-9955.