Volunteers get new toys ready for families to choose at the Salvation Army's holiday toy store in 2021.
Volunteers get new toys ready for families to choose at the Salvation Army's holiday toy store in 2021. (Photo: Salvation Army - Springfield)

Though it’s mid-November, the holiday season is in full swing for the Salvation Army Springfield, its volunteers and the families they serve.

And there’s so many events and ways to get involved this year, said Jeff Smith, the local Salvation Army’s interim development director.

But first, there’s an important deadline fast approaching: the holiday assistance program.

Sign up for holiday assistance by Nov. 18

The deadline for families and individuals to sign up for holiday assistance — the Christmas 2022 Toys and Food Distribution Program — is Friday, Nov. 18.

This program is for families with children aged 16 and younger, the disabled and senior citizens in need. The Salvation Army provides grocery store vouchers for a big holiday meal, new toys and other blessings.

When it comes to the holiday assistance program and Salvation Army’s emergency social services programs, like the year-round food pantry, there aren’t really any income guidelines, Smith said.

Scenes from the Salvation Army’s holiday toy store in 2021. (Photo: Salvation Army – Springfield)

“If you show up at the food pantry and you say you need food,” Smith said, “we figure if you made the trip all the way here and you’ve waiting in line and do the intake, you must need it. We really do trust you on that.”

Apply for assistance 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday (ending Nov. 18) at the Salvation Army, 1707 W. Chestnut Expressway.

The following items need to be brought with you when you apply for assistance:

  • Valid photo ID for person applying.
  • Proof of address with applicant’s name: for example, a monthly bill (utility, phone, bank) dated September-November or a copy of your current lease of Section 8 paperwork.
  • If you are disabled, you must bring your award letter for verification.

Distribution for families will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 15.

Distribution for seniors and disabled individuals will be 9 a.m. to noon on Dec. 14.

Appointment times are given at sign-up. The Salvation Army participates in the local clearinghouse to prevent duplication.

This year, the Salvation Army Springfield also will be providing assistance to Christian County families, as well as Greene County families.

Least of These, a food pantry in Christian County, is unable to provide its usual holiday assistance this year for a variety of reasons, Smith said, so Salvation Army is stepping in to help. This will increase the number of individuals served by the Springfield Salvation Army from about 1,000 last year to 1,500 or more this year.

“Least of These is a great organization that we partner with. That is why they reached out to us,” Smith said.

These are scenes from the Salvation Army’s holiday toy store last year. (Photo: Salvation Army – Springfield)

Salvation Army Major Kris Augenstein pointed out that Least of These is continuing with its everyday food pantry program, but just wasn’t able to afford their holiday assistance program this year.

“We would absolutely rather pick up the slack and help with Christmas,” Augenstein said, “than for them to not be able to help year-round the neighbors in their county that are in need.”

Asked if they would be putting a limit on how many Greene and Christian County families and individuals they serve with this year’s holiday assistance program, Augenstein thought for a moment before answering.

“No, I wouldn’t say we have a limit because God will provide and the community provides,” she said. “As long as we are doing what is right and meeting the needs of our community, I am confident we will have the ability to meet the needs no matter how many extra we have.”

Want to volunteer, donate, participate?

Not only is the Salvation Army Springfield anticipating helping nearly twice as many individuals this year with its holiday assistance program, but the faith-based organization is dealing with the same hikes in costs as everyone else. That means donations to the annual Red Kettle Campaign are more important than ever, Smith said.

The Salvation Army needs volunteers to ring the bells outside area stores and businesses.

A child drops a donation in a Salvation Army Red Kettle
A child drops a donation in a Salvation Army Red Kettle. (Photo: Salvation Army – Springfield)

“For every volunteer bell ringer we don’t have, we have to try to find paid bell ringers,” Smith said. “And trying to find employees in this market is also hard. And they’re getting paid $12 an hour.”

There’s also the virtual bell ringer option, Smith said, which is growing in popularity every year.

“We found individuals (virtual bell ringers) can bring in as little as $50 to as much as $5,000,” Smith said. “That’s fun to do.”

Other volunteer opportunities are available, Smith said. For example, when he spoke to the Springfield Daily Citizen this week, Smith said there was a group of women who come in to make the angel ornaments for the Angel Tree program.

“There’s lots of ways to help us out between now and Christmas,” she said. “We have the free Thanksgiving lunch, the free Christmas lunch. We need people to come help serve. There’s just lots of things.”

Get involved: Find an event or opportunity to spread cheer

To learn more about any of these events and opportunities, all 417-862-5509 or email brooks.matthews@usc.salvationarmy.org. Or visit their website.

Nov. 15: The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program kicks off. Be on the lookout for Angel Trees in area businesses and stores including Walmarts and the Battlefield Mall. Pick an angel ornament and purchase the toy or gift. Donations are accepted through Dec. 12.

Nov. 24: From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., the free Thanksgiving lunch will be served at the Salvation Army, 1707 W. Chestnut Expressway. Volunteers are needed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Dec. 2: The free Evangel Christmas Concert is at 7 p.m. in the Spence Chapel. Bring a canned food item and enjoy some wonderful holiday music.

Dec. 3: The Village Inn Toy Drive is 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Village Inn at 2036 S. Glenstone Ave. Bring a monetary or toy donation and receive a free meal.

Dec. 3: This is Pinegar Match Day at all Red Kettle locations. Pinegar Advantage and an anonymous donor will be matching Kettle donations on this day up to $20,000.

Dec. 15: This is distribution day for families and individuals receiving holiday assistance. Volunteers can experience the joy of helping families get toys and food vouchers. Contact the number or email below for volunteer times.

Dec. 19-24: This is Bass Pro Match Week. Every dollar donated at one of the three Bass Pro doors will be matched up to $25,000.

Dec. 24: Final day to donate to the Red Kettle campaign.

Dec. 25: The free Christmas lunch is 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Salvation Army on West Chestnut Expressway. Volunteers are needed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Jackie Rehwald

Jackie Rehwald is a reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen. She covers housing, homelessness, domestic violence and early childhood, among other public affairs issues. Her office line is 417-837-3659. More by Jackie Rehwald