It’s no secret that the holiday season is the busiest time of year for the Salvation Army of the Fox Cities.
Allison Oravec, volunteer coordinator, says it is the time of year when they help the most families.
“We give them not only their normal groceries and a meal, or provide them a place to stay, it’s Christmas gifts and winter coats,” she said. “It’s so much more than just a meal or housing.”
The organization, which provides services to meet basic needs, is distributing warm winter coats to children in conjunction with the Coats for Kids drive.
They also offer a hot noon meal to folks and eligible people can come in once a month to get groceries based on the size of their family. The Appleton and Neenah Emergency Food Pantries provide groceries to an average of 2,400 people each month. Distribution is based on family size and income.
The organization also helps families through its transitional housing and rent/utility programs. This time of year, the Christmas Assistance program helps families provide gifts for their children.
The reason the Salvation Army is able to provide these year-round services is because of the support it receives from the community through its red kettles.
Volunteers are key to the success of the Red Kettle campaign.
Oravec said one person ringing a bell increases giving by more than 90 percent.
“Sometimes we don’t have a ringer at a kettle, which is kind of a shame,” she said. “It’s a big deal to have people at our kettle because it helps us out so much more.”
Oravec has been ringing bells with her family since age 10.
“I know how important it is,” she said. “The fact that all of it stays local. It goes to help all of our programs in the Fox Cities.”
Her goal this year is to have 60- to 75-percent of the kettle sites staffed with volunteers.
In addition to ringing bells, volunteers assist in preparing and serving the noon meal; they sort and store donations, stock shelves, unload deliveries, assist clients in getting groceries and assist drivers in picking up donations. Volunteers also help with the Christmas Assistance program by helping to distribute gifts to families and helping parents make gift lists for potential “adopters.”
When asked about the importance of volunteers in fulfilling the mission of the Salvation Army, Oravec said volunteers are the lifeblood of their mission.
“We can’t run our kitchen or pantry without our volunteers,” she said. “They work thousands of hours throughout the year just to make sure that people who are in need get the food they need. We could not exist without our volunteers – that’s why we are so thankful for them.”
Volunteers are needed to keep the bells ringing. Volunteers always are needed to help stock shelves, sort/package food and similar tasks. To volunteer, call 920-734-3324.