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Salvation Army sees increased need for Angel Tree program

Lt. Megan Moretz opens a pack of Angel Tree tags that will be distributed to businesses around the area. (Photo by Michele Newbanks)

With the end of the Secret Santa program, the Salvation Army in Marietta is expecting to help hundreds more kids through its Angel Tree program this year.

“Last year, we did close to 200,” Salvation Army Lt. Megan Moretz said. “But Secret Santa did 600 kids that we know of. With the ending of Secret Santa, plus COVID-19, a lot of job losses … 800 to 1,000 kids … that’s what we’re getting ready for.”

Angel Tree provides clothing and toys for children age 16 and under in qualifying families in Washington County. The application process runs Oct. 12 through Nov. 6. Gifts are due back by Dec. 11 so they can be distributed in time for Christmas.

“There will be a lot of sorting and organizing into the correct families,” Moretz said. “It’s extremely important that gifts get back in time this year.”

Due to COVID-19 there is a change this year. Families are required to call ahead to schedule an appointment to limit the number of people in the Salvation Army offices.

“We’re doing appointments every half hour with at least two families at a time in separate rooms,” Moretz said. “It’ll be for four weeks.”

She said they ask parents to come to the appointment with an idea of what their children want for Christmas.

“What their favorite characters are, their favorite TV shows or what they’ve been talking about at home,” Moretz added. “Either specific toys or general ideas and we put that on the Angel Tree tag. This year, three ideas will be listed … clothing sizes as well.”

She said each tag will have the child’s name, gender and what they want for Christmas.

Some tags will appear as early as the first week of November. Moretz said Walmart nationally will roll out the program by Nov. 1, which is why the application process started a week early.

“Walmart is usually one of our biggest partners. Walmart has an online registry that we are set up for,” she noted. “On our registry, we’re going to put the most popular toys that we’re seeing for Angel Tree. although it won’t be an Angel Tree tag, per se, it will go to a child in need this Christmas.”

The registry can be found on the Walmart website under Registry, then Registry for Good.

She noted there will be trees throughout downtown as well, including American Flags and Poles, who do a tree every year.

Gifts purchased at Walmart can be left at the customer service desk with the tag attached, as they need to know which child the gift is for. Gifts can also be dropped off at the Salvation Army, 136 Front St., Marietta, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Secret Santa program was through Washington Morgan Community Action, so when the program closed, Marietta Community Foundation stepped in to help.

“Marietta Community Foundation knew the need would be big this year,” Moretz said. “They came to me and proposed to me that they help make Angel Tree happen this year.”

Mason Beuhring, communications and program services director, said they donated $10,000 to establish a fund at the foundation.

“That will help future sustainability and expansion,” he explained.

He said they knew there would be a lot of kids in need without the Secret Santa program.

“Without that program, there was going to be a huge shortfall for kids in the area,” he said. “We try to be proactive in the community at all times and we try to look to future growth of Washington County.”

On top of the monetary donation and marketing assistance, foundation staff are also donating time to helping with the program.

“The community in Marietta and Washington County has been very generous with Angel Tree in the past,” Moretz said. “I know I can count on them to be generous again this year.”

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