By Anna Tatalin
It was late in the Christmas season and if it got much later General William Booth would not be in time to send a Christmas greeting to his various command posts throughout the world. As the chief commanding officer of a very frugal organization, Booth, searched endlessly for the shortest message that could be sent by telegraph that would still bear tribute to the Army’s creed and at the same time convey the spirit of the season.
Booth was the founder of The Salvation Army; a movement he started after witnessing so many under-privileged folk being turned away from England’s houses of worship. The General, determined that no one should be turned away from worshipping God, also began seeing to other needs of these people.
What was the message Booth finally chose to send to his officers in the field? A one word message that over a hundred years later still best epitomizes the work of The Salvation Army. The greeting simply read “Others”.
I first became involved with The Salvation Army during my radio days when an account executive came up with a glorious promotion called “Toy Mountain”. Local high schools competed against each other to see which one could donate the most toys. The winning school received a great prize and the toys were donated to The Salvation Army and the radio station received kudos for it’s contributions.
This promotion is now in its’ 14th year. What started out as a modest one day live broadcast at a prime location with The Salvation Army canteen serving snacks and hot chocolate on a December Saturday is now a weekend long event with live entertainment, appearances by local notables and the thriving competition between schools.
My radio days long over, I again became involved with The Salvation Army as an assistant in 1998 in charge of Public Relations, Christmas Volunteers and helping out with the annual Bell Ringing. This was one of the most fulfilling positions I ever held.
My purpose in writing this is twofold: to tell you of the magnificent work of this worthy organization and to encourage you to assist them this and every Christmas season.
Check your facts. You’ll find the Salvation Army is one of the highest rated charities in terms of just how your contributed dollar is spent. In other words, far less of your donated monies are spent on administrative costs when you give to The Salvation Army. Forbes Magazine continues to rate them in the top five.
Preparation for Christmas at your local Salvation Army command post begins in the spring. Toys are ordered for the Toy Shop and the Christmas schedule is set in motion. Dolls and bears are ordered for “dressing” by local women’s and church groups. They’ll bring the dolls and bears back in November fully dressed. They’ll be distributed in the Toy Shop as well.
Barrels are distributed to local schools for canned food collections to help out with Christmas Food Baskets and to help others through the long cold winter months.
Bell ringers are hired. Does that surprise you to know that The Salvation Army must hire bell ringers? It did me. But the Bell Ringing Drive is the Army’s single most important fund raiser. The money collected in those red kettles not only helps fund the many Christmas programs; but allows the Army to serve “others” all year long.
Each year underprivileged families and their children can apply for Christmas assistance from The Salvation Army. Each child receives toys either from The Angel Tree program or the Toy Shop and the family receives either a food basket or a food voucher to help prepare a family meal. How can you help? I’m glad you asked!
1. Ring the bells. Get a church or civic group together, call your buddies from your fraternal organization or gather up family members. Tell the Army you’ll do a four hour shift at the mall or local Wal-Mart-or if your group is large enough take the whole day. Your children will love it. We collected over $100.00 in a little less than four hours.
2. Adopt a child or two from The Angel Tree. You’ll only know the child’s first name and Christmas gift choices. If you cannot purchase exactly what the child has requested, get what you can. Wrap your gifts and return to The Salvation Army for distribution. This is all done anonymously. Please-if you take an angel please buy, wrap and return the gifts. If your gifts are not returned the Army must, at the last minute, find replacement gifts for that child.
3. Volunteer to wrap toys and stuff stockings for the Area Command.
4. Volunteer to help distribute toys for both the Angel Tree and Toy Shop programs. You will never forget the gratitude in the eyes of parents when you hand them bags full of toys for their children. Many high schools now require students to perform community service. This is an excellent way to fulfill that requirement.
5. Answer letters from Santa. Many post offices around the country will send their “Letters to the North Pole” to The Salvation Army. This is one of the projects I have continued to work on since 1998. I am amazed at the selflessness and honesty of these kids who really truly ask for very little.
6. Volunteer to work with the Angel Tree program in your local mall or stores. People are needed to assign angels and fill out forms and to make certain those taking angels understand what is required of them.
7. Give. Give money to the red kettles, send a check to The Salvation Army, patronize their thrift stores. Sponsor an angel from the Angel Tree. If you choose to donate time instead of money, call them. There is something for you to do.
8. If there is no Salvation Army in your area, then call the United Way and find the organization that handles these tasks in your community. Or simply send your donation to the nearest Salvation Army Office.
9. If you know someone in need, send them to The Salvation Army for help.
There is no better way I know of to surround yourself with the Christmas spirit than to surround yourself with these officers and volunteers who give selflessly and endlessly, working late into the night from early November and sometimes beyond midnight on Christmas eve. In this world where time changes so much, what an honor to be associated with this organization that has never lost sight of it’s primary business: Others.