Wobbly economy sends more aid requests to Salvation Army|Capt. Lyons: Some people, ‘because of the economy or losing their jobs, just cannot do it this year’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 16, 2008

In these shaky economic times, the Salvation Army is receiving new requests this year from people wanting their children to take part in the organization’s Angel Tree program.

If you go

* Thanksgiving Day Meal – 11 a.m.; at the Salvation Army’s chapel, 530 Mission 66; free; volunteers needed; 601-636-2706.

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* Angel Trees – Two locations: Bass Company Store at the Outlets at Vicksburg, Pemberton Square mall; to have a tree placed in your business: 601-636-2706.

This year, more than 854 children will rely on the benevolence of others to provide presents for them to open on Christmas Day.  In 2007, just more than 800 were helped. Also this year, about 150 nursing home patients are on the Angel Tree — about 20 more than in 2007.

“We already have that many signed up and we expect about 40 more will be added due to emergency situations in between now and Christmas,” said Capt. Patrick Lyons who, along with his wife, Capt. Keolani Lyons, runs the local Salvation Army. “This year has been unusual because we have people calling who have never sought help from us before. It’s just not a normal Christmas because you have all these people who are used to providing for themselves who, because of the economy or losing their jobs, just cannot do it this year.”

The organization kicked off the program Friday by placing trees in the middle of Pemberton Square mall and in the Bass Company Store at the Outlets at Vicksburg. Each tree is decorated with dozens of ornaments featuring a child in need.

The Angel Tree program was started 20 years ago by Mary Kay Beard, a bank robber sentenced to 21 years in prison.

While jailed, Beard joined a prison ministry that led her to establish Angel Tree, a program that provided Christmas gifts to children of convicts.

The local Salvation Army has expanded its ministry to include other children — not just those of inmates.

“We have all the angels printed and ready to go out to the public,” said Lyons. “We only have two trees right now, but we usually have more. We’re hoping businesses will call and offer to put a tree in their building.”

As part of their holiday aid program, the Salvation Army also offers a meal on Thanksgiving Day.

“We do a really nice meal,” said Lyons. “We set our chapel up like a family dining room and serve each person. We also do deliveries for people who are unable to make it to our building. Last year we served about 60 meals and are hoping for about 100 this year. We’d also really appreciate some volunteers to come help us get the meal out.”

The Thanksgiving meal is open to all who wish to come and is free. No reservations are necessary. Those who wish to volunteer to help with the meal or who’d like to have an Angel Tree placed at a business can call the Salvation Army at 601-636-2706.


Contact Megan Holland at mholland@vicksburgpost.com