By Samantha Joseph
MARTIN COUNTY - The Salvation Army, the nonprofit dedicated to "doing the most good," plans to help about 700 families in Martin County over the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.
The group's local arm invited low-income residents to apply at its Stuart offices between Oct. 2 and 4 for gifts, toys, food and clothing.
It sought applicants who meet the federal poverty guidelines, earning less than $11,200 for individuals and $38,900 for families of eight.
The program caters to residents who receive government assistance, such as WIC or food stamps, and those in financial hardship because of reduced income, unemployment, unexpected bills and other emergencies.
"It's surprising the number of people in our community who, if not for this assistance, would go without," said Judith Jones, the Salvation Army of Martin County's public relations and volunteer coordinator.
"Without this there are kids who wouldn't have any toys, new clothes or often, clothes that fit them."
Letters from children thank the group for everything from food to clothes and toys, and parents wrote to show appreciation for helping their children.
One mother wrote to say, "Thank God for the wonderful people that's been here helping and giving and making my kids so happy."
The group gives each child three gifts, two outfits and toiletries. It also provides $30 supermarket gift cards for individual applicants and seniors, and $50 cards for families. Its goal is to also give each family a turkey for Thanksgiving.
Some of the supplies for the Christmas assistance program come from donors via the Salvation Army's "angel trees." Volunteers decorate Christmas trees with tokens that list requests from children and other participants in the program. Donors can then select tokens and contribute the items listed.
Salvation Army of Martin representatives said with continued community support, the group can help make the holidays "the happiest time of the year" for many area families facing hardship.