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Salvation Army continues children's gift program

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 9:52 p.m.
Ligonier Service Unit Director Mitzi Neiderhiser meets with Dan McMaster, owner of Ligonier Outfitters, to pick up toys for the annual Ligonier Salvation Army Treasure Tree project. Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review

The local Salvation Army distribution center will once again provide food baskets for families in need as well as gifts to children during the holiday season as part of its Christmas Baskets and Treasures for Children program.

The program, according to Ligonier Service Unit Director Mitzi Neiderhiser, has been running in the Ligonier Valley for more than 20 years.

“I am always overwhelmed by the generosity of my community during the Christmas season. The participation level has always been good,” Neiderhiser said. “Our program has always been successful even during the down times in the economy. We have always been blessed to receive all the gifts and food that we need. When needs arise, we have always had someone step forward to assist us.”

Families apply for the program in October, answering questions and providing a wish list for their children. Neiderhiser explained that items on those lists are then turned into “Treasure Tree Tags,” which can be seen in local businesses and with certain private groups in the valley. A person who is interested in purchasing an item may take the tag, buy the gift, which will range in price from about $15-$20 and bring the toy to the location where they picked up the tag. The items are then collected at taken to the distribution center. Just before Christmas, families in the program pick up the food and gifts, which are covered to make the gift a surprise for the children.

Neiderhiser said she has met the majority of families who receive these donations and she knows that they are appreciative of what the Salvation Army can provide. She told a story about a set of grandparents who applied so they could give presents to their grandchildren, who they were raising.

“They applied hoping for a little something to put under the tree for the kids so they weren't totally disappointed,” Neiderhiser said. “After coming to pick up their gifts and food, the grandfather left our center in tears of appreciation for everything they were given. I can still see his face clearly as he offered his thanks.”

In addition to the toy drive, Neiderhiser said the Salvation Army is also continuing its Red Kettle program, set up outside of the Ligonier Giant Eagle, where people can donate their spare change.

Neiderhiser implores the people of the Ligonier Valley to continue to give their support.

“This is our main local fundraiser and we receive most our donations during this period. We greatly appreciate any donation that is made and we couldn't continue without the community support,” Neiderhiser said. “If you can't provide a toy, maybe some change in the red kettle would be a start, maybe donating some time to ring the bell would fit better in your schedule. Just do something. You will be blessed for helping others.”

The deadline for toys and food donations is Friday. Donations can be dropped off at the Salvation Army Service Center on state Route 271. Toys can also be left at any business location in town that has a Treasure Tree, such as Giant Eagle, Ligonier Outfitters or Abigails. Financial donations can be placed in the Red Kettle at Giant Eagle or mailed to P.O. Box 19, Ligonier, PA 15658. Financial donations can be made any time, and the Red Kettle program will continue through the end of December.

Peter Turcik is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.