The Salvation Army is opening up registration for its annual “Angel Tree” program, which Cpt. Alyssa Irvin expects to be larger than previous years, with the extra need in the community following nearly two years of the pandemic.

The program provides new clothing or toys for children of needy families through the support of donors. Found in local companies and corporations, Angel Trees are decorated with numbered paper angel tags with the first name, age and gender of a child in need of presents. Contributors remove one or more tags from the tree and purchase appropriate gifts for the child or children described on the tags.

Last year, Irvin said the organization provided assistance to about 300 families through the Angel Tree program.

“I think we’re going to have maybe even more this year,” she said. “We have definitely seen a rise in people that need basic things like food. Our food bank has continued to stay busy, even past the emergent times of the pandemic.”

For 300 families, Irvin said the Salvation Army would provide needs for about 700 to 800 children, depending on family size, throughout Daviess, Hancock, McLean and Ohio counties.

As need continues throughout the pandemic, Irvin said she expects the number to not only rise, but for it to include families that haven’t received assistance like this before — working families who, while they may not qualify for government assistance, likely do not have enough funds to pay for Christmas or extra food in the home.

“The pandemic has had an effect on everyone,” she said. “We’ve just seen families hit over and over with losing loved ones to COVID, so we really just think that as the pandemic continues, we’re going to keep seeing more need.”

Irvin said the Salvation Army is also providing online registration this year, taking away a transportation barrier for those who are unable to register in person.

Additionally, she said the organization is seeing more participation from businesses to host Angel Trees this year.

Angel Trees will be installed at the Walmarts on Frederica Street and on Leitchfield Road, TJ Maxx, the YMCA Aquatics Center and Burkes Outlet on Calumet Trace.

The Salvation Army is also asking for clothing and winter coat donations for children of various sizes to gift to families whose angel does not get adopted.

“Sometimes, we have angels that don’t get adopted and, unfortunately, most of those angels that don’t get adopted will receive mostly toys this year,” Irvin said. “We really do want to push that if you don’t want to adopt an angel, maybe you could buy a few coats for children.”

Angel Tree registration is Oct. 18-22. Angel Trees will be installed at participating businesses at the beginning of November. Any items purchased for an adopted angel need to be returned to the Salvation Army, at 215 Ewing Road, by Dec. 14.

The Salvation Army will distribute Angel Tree items, in addition to Christmas food boxes for registered families, on Dec. 21.

Those who are registering for assistance will need a form of identification for the parent and child, proof of address and proof of need, which might include a paycheck stub, proof of unemployment and EBT card, or proof of loss of job.

Christie Netherton, cnetherton@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7360

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