By Tim Leeds
Bell ringers by red kettles may be the most obvious sign of the Salvation Army's Christmas activities, but it's just the tip of the iceberg.
Pastor Ralph Guthrie said about 50 volunteers are helping set up the Havre Corps' Christmas assistance, and about 180 families are signed up so far, with about 300 people in the families.
"For a small community, we're not that small," Guthrie said.
The Salvation Army offers Christmas help in three ways, both in direct help from the Salvation Army or through participation in two direct donation programs in the area.
Those programs are the adopt-a-family and the Angel Tree programs. People applying for Christmas help are asked if they want to participate in those programs, but not all want to, Guthrie said. Those families receive help through Salvation Army funds from monthly contributions and the Red Kettle campaign.
Guthrie said the Salvation Army gives organizations, churches and families the names of families that indicate they want to get help through the adopt-a-family program. Once a family is picked, the donor provides the family with food for Christmas and gifts for everyone.
In the Angel Tree program, the Salvation Army puts names of children on trees in businesses around town. Shoppers can pick a name off the tree and can buy a gift for a child they select.
"Each tag shows what the child would like. It's kind of like a wish list," Guthrie said.
Stores hold the gifts purchased for the Salvation Army until it picks up all the gifts and distributes them to the kids.
Dec. 20 is the day for distribution of special assistance. The goods collected and purchased will be set up in a room at Van Orsdel United Methodist Church, and parents of the families will go through and pick up the items.
"Its like a big shopping spree for them," Guthrie said. "They walk through and select gifts they would like for their children. All the gifts are brand new."
The Salvation Army also provides gift wrap for the items, and Christmas cards to give with them. Christmas food is also distributed at that time.
Guthrie said the Salvation Army works with the North Havre Community Food Bank to prepare Christmas food baskets for families asking for assistance.
"The food bank puts together a box with turkey and all the trimmings for a Christmas dinner," he said.