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Christmas Cheer Club gearing up to aid needy Mon Valley children

| Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, 12:12 a.m.

When the youth walked into the Salvation Army office in Monessen two years ago, he had hygiene and personality issues.

“He was just a mess from head to toe,” recalled Lt. Susan Thwaite, co-commanding officer of the Salvation Army's Mon Valley Citadel.

But the Salvation Army began to transform the young man. Gifts from the Christmas Cheer Club, including clothing, bath products and even a MP3 player, aided in that process.

Recently, Thwaite asked the teen why he has become so helpful in the community.

“He said, ‘I see how hard you and Lt. Joel (Thwaite) work, so I thought I'd try to help,'” Susan Thwaite recalled.

“Now he fits into the community. All he needed was for someone to care about him.”

For a quarter-century, The Valley Independent's Christmas Cheer Club has been caring for those in need in our communities.

To join the Christmas Cheer Club, donors are asked to purchase new gifts and bring them to The Valley Independent office at Eastgate 19 in Monessen.

Donors can leave their unwrapped gifts under our Christmas tree, sign the Cheer Club membership book and place their names on the tree. Donations can be dropped off 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays through Dec. 21. We will begin accepting donations Monday.

The gifts will be picked up by The Salvation Army and distributed in time for Christmas to needy area children.

“We're thrilled to sponsor the Christmas Cheer Club again this year,” said Robert Burke, Valley Independent managing editor.

“Not only does the club help make the holiday season a little brighter for some local boys and girls, but it provides The Valley Independent with yet another way to help the communities we are proud to serve.”

The Cheer Club benefits the annual toy drive of the Mon Valley branch of The Salvation Army.

“It benefits, because every year we're getting more and more requests from more families coming to us for help,” Susan Thwaite said. “Without the help of the Christmas Cheer Club, I don't know how we'd fill those requests, especially the late applications.

“Our goal is to make sure no child goes without a toy for Christmas.”

She said the organization served more than 800 Mon Valley children last year and expects to help even more this year.

She said the Salvation Army is the only organization giving Christmas gifts to needy teens.

“We try really hard to reach out to teens in the community,” Susan Thwaite said. “It's hard being a teen, seeing a younger sibling getting a gift and you're not.

“I love seeing teens when they come back wearing their new clothes. There's genuine appreciation on their faces.”

Susan Thwaite said that in addition to teen gifts, those for infants are also in demand each year.

Keeping with tradition, those who contribute to the Christmas Cheer Club will have their photos published in The Valley Independent.

For information about The Salvation Army, or to donate directly, call (724) 684-4282.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or