As the countdown to distribution day nears, Wheeling Salvation Army social worker Janine Pietras worries she won't have enough toys this year for needy children in Ohio County.
"We have 400 children this year. Normally we have 280 to 300," Pietras said. "We just don't have the money coming in. ... I need toys."
Much like every year, Pietras blames the region's lack of available jobs for people's reliance on the Salvation Army. What makes this year even more difficult is that the group has lost some regular corporate sponsorships - the businesses that annually would donate money to the cause of helping children and families have a good Christmas.
Photo by Shelley Hanson
Wheeling Salvation Army Cadet Don Marcellino holds some of the 400 Angel Tree tags representing needy children in Ohio County.
"I blame the economy. We have no economy in this area - it's deader than a doornail," Pietras said. "We don't have the corporate sponsors ... because they don't have the profits to help. They don't have the extra profit that they've had."
Those who would like to donate to the army's Angel Tree program can pick up a tree tag at the facility located on 16th Street. People can also buy a toy for a boy or girl between the ages of 2 and 12 years old and bring it to the facility by Dec. 15, as the toys will be given to the families Dec. 19. And for those looking for an easier way to donate, nationally the Salvation Army is holding a "Fill the Truck" with toys event from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at Wal-Marts across the nation, including Wal-Marts at The Highlands in Ohio County and in Moundsville and New Martinsville from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Pietras said people can also donate gift cards from any store that sells toys.
The Highlands Wal-Mart is holding a "Fill the Truck" event from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today for the Wheeling Salvation Army's toy distribution program, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Moundsville and New Martinsville Wal-Marts.
"Kids don't want clothes - they want toys," she added.
Salvation Army Cadet Don Marcellino, who has been training in Wheeling for the past two weeks, said he hopes residents will support each other this Christmas and donate toys, money or gift cards.
"Love your people - support your community," he said.