Christmas is a tough time of year for children in financially strapped families, says Major Ann Penhale of the Salvation Army of Lee County, especially for families that are facing economic woes for the first time.
“Most children don’t actually realize when their family is poor,” Penhale says.
Going through Christmas time is a rude awakening for children, she explains. Their friends are getting gifts. Television programming is crammed with commercials featuring the newest toys. But their parents often can’t afford the extravagance.
As job losses and economic woes seem to be ever increasing for some locals, charitable organizations like the Salvation Army of Lee County are already looking to ease the burden for families during the upcoming holiday season with its Christmas Cheer program.
The program, which offers food for needy families and gifts for children, begins registration on Wednesday.
Major Ann Penhale of the Salvation Army of Lee County said the Christmas Cheer program is a small but important part of what the organization offers to locals in need of assistance.
“What we give them at Christmas is really very small: two toys for a child and a bag full of food,” she said. “But it offers hope. You don’t want (children) to feel like there is no hope.”
Jacquie Matthews Williams, resource and media specialist at the Lee Salvation Army, said that in order for families to receive assistance they must first register at the Salvation Army Center in Fort Myers. Registration dates are from Oct. 28 until Nov. 23.
Adults wishing to register must provide identification, a social security card and proof of income. A social security card or birth certificate should also be presented to register children.
Penhale says she expects registration for Christmas Cheer to be up from last year. Already the Salvation Army has seen an increase in requests for everyday help by more than 50 percent from 2008.
Salvation army christmas cheer registration
Families who would like to receive assistance during the holidays must register and complete the application process.
Registration Times: 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 28-30, Nov. 5-7, and Nov. 23. 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Nov. 5.
Location: Salvation Army Center, 10291 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers.
Bring: Florida ID, Social Security Card, proof of income and benefits and brith certificate of Social Security Card for any children being registered.