More families in Galesburg, Illinois, need help this holiday season, and Salvation Army volunteers say donations are down considerably from Christmases past.
At the Walmart on Knox Square Drive, the number of tags still hanging on a pair of Angel Trees brought tears to Linda Howarter’s eyes Thursday.
“Every child has to have at least one toy on Christmas,” said Howarter, Walmart’s Community Involvement Coordinator.
With only 13 days left until the Salvation Army hands out presents, though, more than 600 wish lists remain on the store’s trees.
“It’s extremely unusual. Normally, this time of year, we have maybe 200 to 300 left on the trees,” said Angel Tree Coordinator Kim A’Hearn.
Volunteers across town are struggling to find empty branches for more tags. A’Hearn estimates there are 100 tags she still hasn’t put out because the trees at Walmart, Kmart and JC Penney are so full.
“A lot of people that are on the tree right now used to give to the tree. With different places that they’ve lost their jobs, this is what happens, and now, they’re on it,” explained Howarter.
In Galesburg, unemployment sits at 8.7 percent. That number is nearly 1.5 percent higher than the national unemployment rate.
Even donations to the Salvation Army’s Red Kettles are low this year, as bell ringers fight both a shorter shopping season and an increased need for help.
“The economy has hit us so hard around here. We’ve lost all of our industry. We’re having a hard time getting back on our feet,” said volunteer Mike A’Hearn.
It’s why the Salvation Army is pleading with the community to donate whatever they can this year. Volunteers can use even $1 or $5 donations to buy items from Angel Tree wish lists — and make a child happy on Christmas morning.
“That one super, super grateful person. It just takes one, just takes one to make you realize that giving is the thing to do,” said A’Hearn.
People can take tags from Angel Trees at Walmart, Kmart, and JC Penney in Galesburg, and they can return gifts to the same location. Presents need to be brought back by December 15th.