Salvation Army seeks Christmas 'angels' for underprivileged kids
With Christmas about three weeks away, Capt. Elvie Carter, Salvation Army commander in New Kensington and Vandergrift, is getting worried.
Worrying at this time of year is nothing unusual for Carter. He heads the annual effort to bring Christmas food and gifts to hundreds of less fortunate people throughout the region, and there's always concern that someone will be left out.
This year about 50 “Angel” tags remain unclaimed, as of Wednesday, in the Salvation Army citadel at Fifth Avenue and 11th Street in New Kensington.
Each Angel bears the name and age of an underprivileged child eligible to receive toys and gifts from donors, who may not receive any gifts otherwise.
“We are trying to work with companies and maybe individuals who wouldn't mind buying a gift for a kid,” Carter said. Carter is hoping that the Alle-Kiski Valley's more fortunate residents will stop by the Salvation Army and pick up a tag that bears the name of a needy child.
So far, there are about 580 children signed up for Christmas assistance on the Westmoreland County side of the Allegheny River, Carter said.
“We are going to continue to sign people up all the way through Christmas Eve,” he said. “The need is greater this year than the previous year.”
At one point, Carter said there were as many as 119 Angel tags unclaimed but people keep coming to the rescue.
Farmland Foods employees pitch in
Some of those people work at Farmland Foods in Arnold, formerly North Side Foods.
“We took 30 last week and 10 this week and we have all but three distributed and we'll probably get those out today,” Colleen McConnaughey, human resources director at Farmland said Wednesday. “Some of our employees take as many as six. Last year we did 35 and we actually ran out.”
She said the plant, which employs about 200 people, has been involved with the Salvation Army program for about 17 or 18 years. It's done through the employees' Community Action Committee, which helps with other charitable causes and civic projects.
“Some employees, this is what their family does for Christmas,” McConnaughey said. “Instead of exchanging gifts, they do the Salvation Army Treasures for Children.”
“If they have a 9-year-old at home, they'll try to pick out a tag for a 9-year-old and then take their child to help pick out a present — make it a family event,” she said. “We have an employee who gets a tag for each one of her children.
“If they normally get six gifts, they'll each get five — and give up a gift so that somebody else can have one.”
A family's story
All those efforts and sentiments are deeply appreciated, according to Tesha Berry of New Kensington.
Berry, 28, and her husband Michael, 33, have five children and she is expecting a sixth. But like many Americans, the Berrys have been experiencing some tough times. They lost their home when the house they were renting was foreclosed upon and got only two days notice to vacate the premises.
Out of desperation they bought a house in the 1200 block of Kenneth Avenue that has proven to be a money pit, needing essentials such as a new furnace and water heater.
After not being able to land a steady job, Berry said her husband now has steady work as a truck driver. But most of their income goes to catching up on bills and making home repairs.
“Our money has just been going to keep a roof over our heads,“ she said.
That leaves little extra money to buy Christmas presents for their son and four daughters, who range in age from 1 to 13.
But she said the Salvation Army has stepped up for the family.
“If it wasn't for them, my kids wouldn't have a Christmas,” Tesha Berry said. “Every kid deserves to wake up on Christmas and see their names on two or three gifts.
“I would hate to see my kids waking up on Christmas with nothing for them,” she said.
Which leads back to why Capt. Elvie Carter worries.
“What we don't want to happen is: we don't want people who are expecting gifts and they come in and we tell them we were not able to do it because nobody picked up their child's tag,” Carter said. “Once the need has been established, we verify that the Salvation Army is going to come through.”
He hopes that more companies and individuals will come forward to help with the effort so that no child is overlooked.
Among other companies that have gotten involved with the effort are Alcoa, which took 175 Angel tags, Siemens, which took 75 and Computer Savers of Lower Burrell, which took 25. McConnaughey said she would be glad to help officials from other companies set up similar employee committees and become involved in the Salvation Army effort. She can be reached at Farmland Foods in Arnold.
“It creates a unity among all the employees in the company whether you are maintenance or production because everyone gets involved,” she said. “I would never think of not doing it because I am sure they would be asking where the tags are.”
Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Winfield man is one of a few to attend all 49 Super Bowl games
- Burrell students embark on educational adventure
- Springdale puts limits on adult businesses
- Army Corps of Engineers asks for more input on Parks Township nuclear dump plans
- Plum’s 1st property tax hike since 2006 could reach 6.2%
- Plum School Board OKs teachers contract
- Penn State New Ken celebrates ‘Unity Day’
- Arnold woman severely injured in Allegheny Township wreck
- Second teen charged in Jan. 1 Tarentum shooting
- Legal wrangling limits testimony on drilling regulations in Allegheny Twp.
- Lower Burrell man charged with stealing copper from Brestensky’s closed meat-packing plant