“[Gewene Womack] has been involved obviously with all aspects of the work with The Salvation Army but her passion is the Angel Tree ministry that happens every Christmas when we provide Christmas gifts and clothing to the less fortunate children in our community,” Salvation Army Capt. Michelle Wilson said. “This past Christmas, she saw where we ran short on toys and gifts and were scrambling at the last minute to be sure we had enough to cover all the children that had come to us. ... So she wanted to put something together this year that would help us get a jump-start on being prepared for Christmas 2014, because as the need grows, it usually increases about 10 to 12 percent every year for those who come to us.
“... Christmas is the busiest time for The Salvation Army and there’s always a need for toys for the children for Christmas. So it just means a lot to us that she would come alongside us and support us in this way and put together a program like this that’s going to bring hope to so many children and excitement on Christmas morning.”
Last year, the Angel Tree program served about 700 children, newborn to 12. Individuals, who donated, selected an “Angel” ornament, which contained a child’s first name and age and several suggested gifts. After selecting the ornaments — adorning artificial Christmas trees at organizations throughout Bartow County — the anonymous donors delivered the contributions, unwrapped, to the tree location or The Salvation Army.
The “Christmas in July” concert will feature music provided by One Touch Quartet, Donnie Ruff/Spiritual Vision and The Heard Family. While there will be no admission charge, attendees are encouraged to support the Angel Tree program by bringing an unwrapped toy or financial donation.
For those unable to attend Saturday’s benefit, Wilson said they still can assist the Christmas drive by calling The Salvation Army, 770-387-9955, and inquiring about conducting toy drives or being a host site for an Angel tree during the holiday season.
Along with the “Christmas in July” concert, The Salvation Army also currently is benefitting from another community effort by the same name.
Organized by the United Way of Bartow County in partnership with Bartow Collaborative, the Christmas in July campaign kicked off June 15 and will help equip students through the Bartow Give a Kid a Chance offering and replenish the shelves at three nonprofits’ food pantries: New Beginnings Food Outreach, North Bartow Community Services and The Salvation Army.
Along with businesses encouraging employees to donate nonperishable food items and school supplies, individuals also can participate by contributing materials at public collection sites around the county, such as WBHF and Century Bank. Some examples of needed materials include peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, tuna fish, canned meats, canned vegetables, canned fruit, cereal, baby food and baby formula.
“Our food pantry during the summer months gets especially hard hit because of the children being out of school,” Wilson said. “Where the children would normally get breakfast and lunch at school, now the families are trying to have to provide on their limited [means] three meals a day now for their children instead of just the one. So the food pantry during the summer months sees an increased volume of people coming in for those resources because of providing for their families.
“Also during the summer months ... it’s vacation time, so [our donors] kind of get out of the habit of whether they were putting together a box that they drop by our office on a regular basis or contributing to something that their church collects. If they’re away, then those donations kind of go down a little bit in the summer months. It’s just because everybody’s out of their regular cycle and routine. So our food pantry’s shelves get very bare during the summer months.”
Along with food, the Christmas in July drive also is collecting school supplies, such as an eight-count box of color pencils, 24-count box of crayons, No. 2 pencils, erasers, safety scissors, book bags, 12-inch ruler with centimeters, glue sticks, hand sanitizer, 2 1/2-inch three-ring binders and jump drives. The donated school items will be distributed during the Bartow Give a Kid a Chance event at Bartow County College and Career Academy, 738 Grassdale Road in Cartersville, Saturday.
“So far, we have had so many companies that have gotten involved” said Brenda Morehouse, president of the United Way of Bartow County. “We’ve got Shaw that is collecting both school supplies and nonperishable food items, Georgia Power [is participating and] we’ve got Anheuser-Busch doing a huge drive for three-ring binders. Everybody’s pulling together.
“[And] Gerdau has actually gone as far as to renting a dunking booth. ... Each department and their plant manager and department heads — they’re letting their employees dunk them and donating the money to United Way. ... So we’ve been able with financial donations that have been raised to write a check to the Bartow Give a Kid a Chance program for $2,800. Then on top of it, we’ve gotten lots of canned food items for the food pantries and then we’ve also gotten school supplies,” she said, adding families unable to be served by Bartow Give a Kid a Chance need to contact United Way, 770-386-1677, to obtain information about Publix’s school supply drive.