As shoppers crowd stores for bargain prices in the opening weekend of the holiday shopping season, local charities are hoping the community will share the Christmas cheer with the less fortunate.
St. Vincent de Paul is scaling back and refocusing its charity efforts this year - focusing mainly on providing toys for children.
"In the past a lot of people have done it for the whole family, and we're trying to get people to just give presents for the children," said Stan Marston, assistant to the general manager.
With extra funds going toward transitional housing this year because of a spike in heating-oil costs, Marston said the charity is hoping to ensure a pleasant holiday season for the children in need.
He said the worldwide need for assistance, driven by the natural disasters this year, may leave the less fortunate of Juneau with less joy this holiday season.
"I think people are just tapped out," Marston said. "They've been giving and giving and giving, and quite graciously."
St. Vincent de Paul is working to provide for 28 families in its transitional housing facilities, which includes approximately 45 children, as well as other families who may need a bit of help, Marston said. Thirteen families already have been matched with donors, while four families still need to be matched.
"That's simply because I don't have anybody to match them with," Marston said.
The Salvation Army also is in need of some extra help to fulfill its holiday goals. While some people may feel the constant ringing of bells outside businesses to be a nuisance, those volunteers play an important role in the holiday season, Maj. Joe Huttenlocker said.
"Right now our goal for the Christmas Kettle Program is $26,000 for what we want to do for Christmas," he said. "That's why it's important that we have the kettles out there."
The Salvation Army is still searching for volunteers to ring the bells to bring attention to the Christmas kettles. Huttenlocker said he hopes businesses, organizations or individuals will volunteer for four time slots to turn spare change into toys for children. He said people can call to arrange a location, time and date and the Salvation Army will meet the volunteers and bring them the kettle and bells.
There are lots of people who might need a little bit of assistance, Huttenlocker said.
"We're looking at assisting about 200 families for Christmas this year," he said.
The assistance needed varies from family to family.
"It just depends on what the need is ... and what struggles they have encountered this year," Huttenlocker said. "It may be a single mother who's trying to take care of two or three children - she could use help with everything for the holidays."
For people who may want to provide some extra holiday cheer but might not be able to make a very large donation, the Salvation Army has set up "angel trees" at various locations.
"The requests from the families that have come in and asked for assistance, the children's wishes are on those trees," Huttenlocker said.
The tags will be up until Dec. 16 and have the information about what to do with the gifts.
Marston said the charities just need volunteers to take the initiative to pass on the holiday spirit.
"Just step forward," he said. "Come forward and we will match people."
Huttenlocker said he was pleased by the way the community stepped forward to help the less fortunate at Thanksgiving. He said he expects the same thing will happen for Christmas.
"I'm pretty confident that the community is going to step up to the plate," he said. "Whether it's individually, or business or community groups, I think they are going to help out."
Eric Morrison can be reached at email@example.com.
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