Salvation Army Volunteers Make Christmas Joyful for Those in Need
By Scott Shurtleff
FITCHBURG -- ’Tis the season when almost everyone becomes a volunteer. City workers and citizens arrived en masse to assist with the annual Red Kettle Campaign and other extended services of The Salvation Army.
The Montachusett Corps of the national organization had a litany of individuals and civic groups don the bell this year, from firefighters and police officers and even Mayor Stephen DiNatale.
“This has been by far the best year I can remember. Not just in terms of the number of volunteers, but also the amount of donations from the community,” said Local Envoy Lynette Valentine.
Those donations include far more than coin-drops into kettles. Toys and clothes filled the donation centers before becoming gift bags for more than a thousand children in more than 300 households.
“No child should be without a toy or gifts at Christmas,” said Valentine. And all the money raised goes directly back into the community, providing services and groceries all year, she said.
“That bell makes a difference all year, not just on holidays,” said Valentine, who estimates that more than 30 individuals and several groups have volunteered for this year’s campaign that runs from Nov. 10 through Christmas Eve. That is triple the number of volunteers she coordinates during other months.
The difference in volunteerism is reflected in the total revenue. On the tally board -- tree of lights -- outside of the 739 Water St. offices, the red line inches closer to the goal of $90,000 -- already at more than $80,0000 as of Friday.
“This year has been very special,” she said.
It is also special for struggling parents who want to provide a happy Christmas for their children. The organization prepared and delivered 346 individually packed bags for each family. Inside the bags were specific items of play and clothing for each child in the household, based on the parents’ applications, all of them donated by the community.
The Salvation Army, now 140 years old, coordinates more than 3.3 million volunteers around the country and returns products and services back to needy people and families.
Locally, it is the conduit between benevolent members of the community and community members in need, providing meals for thousands of area residents, clothing and furnishings for families, social services for individuals and a variety of recreation programs for area children.