For the first time in decades, the Salvation Army will limit the number of families it helps through the annual Christmas center.
Major David Davis, who has been with the Longview Salvation Army for six years, said the decision to cap assistance at 900 families was driven by concern that donations will be down and need will surge.
The center has provided Christmas toys, clothes and food vouchers to needy children, foster kids and families at Christmas for roughly 40 years. It depends on donations from the agency’s kettle stands and Angel Tree gift program.
“Normally we just do anyone who qualified, but there is so much uncertainty,” Davis said Friday.
He said the Christmas center has served 935 to 1,035 families during his tenure. Last year, 2,400 children received an age-appropriate toy and an outfit that includes clothing, underwear, socks, shoes and, if needed, a new coat.
The Amy this year also will limit the amount of the vouchers it provides for families to have a Christmas dinner. In the past, the value of vouchers were based on the size of the family, with a limit of $50. This year, all vouchers will be for $20.
He said he is worried that donations through the holiday season — the time of year when people give the most — won’t be enough to cover the food the army has ordered to run its regular meal program. He said the number of volunteers bell ringers for its kettle stands also is down.
“If we don’t have volunteers, then we have to pay the people,” he said. “But we need that money to pay for the food we’re ordering.”
Despite these troubles, volunteers have worked for the last four days preparing the donated building to house the center, which will be in the former Columbia River Floor Covering building at 1015 Vandercook Way in Longview. This year the center has a new name, “The Salvation Army Community Christmas Angel Center.”
Local longshoremen donated their time to get the building ready. Trash cans and other supplies were donated by Bob’s Merchandise.
The center will be open for a ribbon cutting and tours at noon Dec. 2. Applications will be accepted by families in need starting Dec. 3. Those who have questions about how to apply can call the center at 577-3557.
Beverly Gilmore, longtime center organizer, said the new location is kitty-corner from the Salvation Army’s “Long-View Motel” (the former Electra Motel) for homeless people and is about a block from the Salvation Army Temple Corps.
There is also bus service to the center, she added.
Gilmore said the name for the center was changed to remind people of the tie between the annual Angel Tree Program and the center. Toys and clothing are donated through Angel Tree go to children through the center. (See breakout for a list of angel tree tag locations.)
The Christmas center, Davis said, runs entirely on volunteer service.
“That is a true blessing,” he said. “The money and all that effort is so that we can help families.”
He said that he is grateful for every dollar that comes in to support the army and all the donations for the holiday help it provides for local children.
He said he wishes the army could provide the way they have in the past and that deciding to change the rules was rough.
“It was a hard decision,” he said. “But you can’t give what you don’t have.”