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Christmas in a cart: Salvation Army seeks donations, volunteers

Mitchell's Salvation Army opened its doors to 375 area families in need on Saturday morning, beginning a holiday donation event 125 years running. Pre-registered families will be able to pick up food, toys and other Christmas necessities through ...

Mitchell's Salvation Army opened its doors to 375 area families in need on Saturday morning, beginning a holiday donation event 125 years running.

Pre-registered families will be able to pick up food, toys and other Christmas necessities through Christmas Eve, picking up a shopping cart at the door and filling it with everything they need as they walk through the Salvation Army's Mitchell location. But according to Major Vickie Cole, who leads Mitchell's local operations, although families have already started picking up those items, the organization still needs to raise a considerable amount of money to fund the event fully.

"We still need volunteers for the bell ringers," Cole said. "Our financial (balance) is low. We are way behind. We've got to pay for all this milk and eggs and turkeys and all that."

So far this year, the Salvation Army in Mitchell has raised about $61,000 for its holiday donations. That puts the organization just over the halfway mark for the $118,000 it hopes to raise before the event ends.
Starting on Saturday, the pews of the Salvation Army's church were filled with cardboard boxes and plastic bins of various sizes, all filled with a variety of nonperishable foods. Each bin was labeled with the number of family members that could be served by the food inside.

Money raised from donations such as those made to the Salvation Army's red kettles went toward paying for items with a shorter shelf life, such as bread, meat and eggs, for which families receive vouchers to redeem at Coborn's or County Fair grocery stores in Mitchell.

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In addition to that food, families can select basic clothing items such as socks, underwear and T-shirts, and each family is being given a blanket. Each of the pre-registered families from Davison County and the surrounding area will receive a turkey in a size that correlates to that of the family.

Cole said that the single biggest expense of the holiday donations is that of the turkeys, which alone totals thousands of dollars.

The Salvation Army's goal is to provide families who are struggling financially with everything they need for their holiday celebrations.

"During the holidays, it's a great time to assist people and hope that they have a good Christmas, too," Salvation Army board member Don McLean said.

In total, about 30 people from around the community volunteered to help distribute the food and other donations, help the recipients carry them out to their cars and keep things running smoothly as families navigate shopping carts along the pathway lined with donated goods. These included students from Dakota Wesleyan University and representatives from Avera, a company which McLean said has been extremely helpful with this year's donation event.

"The number of helpers has really made it go smoothly," McLean said.

The Salvation Army is also covering the gift-giving aspect of Christmas for many of the area's families. After picking up their food and other items, they can also take home some of the toys that were added to a wish list submitted at the time the family registered to receive donations.

A table of stocking stuffers is available for children to peruse, and even wrapping paper is available. Cole said the Salvation Army has been working on gathering the toys for more than a month.

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The Salvation Army currently has six bell-ringer locations set up throughout Mitchell, and Cole encouraged anyone interested in volunteering to call the organization's office to be assigned a time and location at which to volunteer. Donations can either be made in the bell ringers' kettles or in the Salvation Army's front office, located at 724 N. Sanborn Blvd.

"People just don't realize how much help is given by the Salvation Army," McLean said. "This is a good example of one of the things that we do. And it's pretty expensive."

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