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Sat, March 28

'Tis the season to offer holiday help

As the holidays approach, the Salvation Army is again seeking help from the community for its annual food basket and Angel Tree program, which provides a holiday meal for households and presents for children in need.

There will be a meeting tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the Rec Center piano room for those interested in helping.

According to Dan Tobin, chairman of the Salvation Army board here, they need donations, volunteer help and names of people who may need extra help this Christmas.

"We don't collect food," he said. "We collect money and buy the food. That way everyone gets a good basket."

It costs about $55 to fill a basket, which contains a holiday meal and more, as well as a $20 gift certificate for perishable items. Park concessionaire Delaware North provides the food for the program at cost. Last year, they gave out between 40 and 45 baskets to people at Grand Canyon, in Tusayan and in Valle. They expect about the same this year.

In the past, they've carried a good-sized balance from the year before, but that isn't the case this year. While they generally try to alternate their fund raising efforts to target business and service groups only every other year, Tobin said that this year they are looking for help from both, as well as from individuals.

They also gave 70 gifts last year to youngsters in need through the Angel Tree. That tree, which is set up at the Tusayan McDonald's, is decorated with angels, which identify the children who need presents by age and gender. The tree normally goes up the day after Thanksgiving, but Tobin said they plan to put it up early this year, probably by the middle of next week.

The committee will purchase presents for any children whose names are left on the tree as Christmas approaches. Last year, Tobin said the Girl Scouts did the shopping and selected presents.

Volunteers are needed just before Christmas to help pack baskets, wrap presents and deliver them to employers who in turn distribute them to the people who need them.

Employers are also key in identifying those in need, but others can refer a household as well.

"We get most of our names through employers and through the school," said Tobin. "If anyone knows of someone in need, they should call and we can get them on the list."

The program doesn't have a strict income guideline and people aren't asked to prove their hardship. Recipients don't have to have children, nor do they have to be affiliated with the park.

Food baskets and the Angel Tree have been a holiday tradition at Grand Canyon for about a decade. The program was established and operated by the Grand Canyon Baptist Church until 2003, and assumed by the Salvation Army after the church's pastor, Paul Kinnison, left.

Bell ringers needed

Tobin said that the Salvation Army is also recruiting bell ringers to collect money for its year-round emergency fund. Volunteers "ring" a silent bell in front of the Delaware North General Store at Market Plaza, on weekends starting right after Thanksgiving. Ringers must be 16 or older and are asked to serve for two-hour shifts.

"This is separate and doesn't go to the food baskets," he said. "The Salvation Army uses this to help people throughout the year."

He said they gave about $5,000 to residents last year, providing grocery vouchers, emergency lodging and transportation, assistance to purchase prescriptions and other pressing needs. Generally, he said, the money is given to tide people over for the short-term. Those needing sustained help are referred to other agencies.

He said funds also help support the Share program, which assists households struggling to pay heating bills. Donations also go toward scholarships to send kids to Camp Ponderosa Ranch in Heber. Last year's bell ringers raised about $500 of that.

Where to donate

Donations may be made to either the food basket program or the emergency fund, and should be sent to Salvation Army, PO Box 639, Grand Canyon, Ariz., 86023. Specify on the check which program should receive the funds.

For more information, to help or to pass on the name of a family in need, contact Dan Tobin at 638-2271.

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