Faced with tough economic times, people are already signing up at the Salvation Army to see if the agency can help families have a nicer Christmas.
Tina Crawford, social services director of the Havre Salvation Army, said many people have already applied for the winter family services.
This year, she said, she was surprised to see an increase in the number of two-parent families who need the help.
A lot of people, she said, are making progress getting their heads above water.
"They aren't there yet," she said. "But they are making progress."
Parents may have part-time jobs, so they can pay some or most of their bills, but they don't have enough to provide their families with Christmas gifts or special Christmas meals, she said.
While the Salvation Army is opening its arms to people in need, the agency is also asking people and businesses to help in providing food, gifts and money for the people in need.
There are three main programs the Salvation Army has for the winter months, she said.
• Christmas meals: A meal with all of the fixings is offered to families that qualify, she said. It is usually a ham or turkey dinner that is picked up by the families a couple of days before Christmas. This year, Crawford said, the Salvation Army is working with the Havre Food Bank in preparing the baskets, which she said is a great way for agencies to work together.
• The Giving Tree: The program was once called the Angel Tree. Trees are set up in various stores in town with card attached. People are invited to pick one of the cards, which will have a gift idea for a youngster up to 12 years old. It will include the age and size of the youngster. The person is asked to buy a gift, which the Salvation Army will pass on to the youngster's family. The parents will be given wrapping paper and tape so they can wrap the gift themselves. The trees go up the day before Thanksgiving, she said.
The Adopt-a-Family program: Last year, 20 area business and people took part in the program, and Crawford is hoping more will sign up this year, since 37 families are eligible.
Under the program, she said, a business, agency, church or individual can agree to purchase gifts for an entire family that needs some special holiday cheer.
Crawford said it is easy to see people are already getting the holiday spirit. Families in need are applying for the various programs, and people are donating what they can.
“Families are so appreciative of what we can offer, ” she said. “They thank us profusely. ”
“This community has always helped us out, ” she said.
People or businesses can donate food that will be used for the Christmas baskets or will be passed on to Havre Food Bank.
“And, of course, money. We can always use money, ” she said.
In addition to the Christmas programs, the Salvation Army continues to operate its day-to-day social programs, providing energy aid, emergency rent, emergency food and a host of other programs, that usually become more necessary when the weather gets cold, Crawford said.
• People who would like to donate money, food or their time to the Salvation Army’s Christmas programs should call the office at 265-6411.
• Parents or guardians who would like to help their children have a better Christmas by taking part in Salvation Army programs can call the Salvation Army office at 265-6411.