Nov. 21—MASSENA — The Massena Salvation Army is assisting 51 families this Thanksgiving, more than double the number from last year.
Salvation Army representatives and volunteers packed items Saturday with help from the Highland Family Restaurant, which donated pizza to feed the volunteers.
The bags of food will be distributed today, giving the recipients time to thaw the turkeys and prepare for Thursday's Thanksgiving feast. Communities served by the Massena Salvation Army include Bombay, Fort Covington, North Lawrence, Brasher Falls, Chase Mills, Helena, Hogansburg, Massena, Norfolk, Raymondville, Rooseveltown and Waddington.
"They come in, we'll load their carts with what they need and help them out. It gives them a couple of days to thaw it out and get it ready. They don't have to store the turkeys," Salvation Army Lt. Jennifer White said.
The Salvation Army received a boost from Arconic, which purchased 15-pound turkeys for distribution — 75 total. They have been in the organization's freezer and would have cost The Salvation Army $947.
"Walmart was a big asset to us because they let us preorder all of our turkeys. Arconic was nice enough to cover the cost of that," Lt. White said.
Distribution of food packages is based on family size, one to four individuals or five and up.
"We have families with five to nine people. Anything that's left over after we've packed the bags, we beef up their bags to make sure they have everything extra with school being out and kids being home," she said.
Once Thanksgiving is over, it's time to focus on Christmas. As of Saturday, Lt. White said the Massena Salvation Army had 65 applications for family assistance. The red kettles are in full swing to raise money for that effort and others throughout the year, including Thanksgiving. Massena's kettles are located at Price Chopper, Big Lots, JCPenney and Walmart, and the goal is $44,000.
"If anybody wants to donate their time for an hour, two hours, four hours, we have a place for them. The more volunteers, the more funds that go back into our budget, the more assistance we can give the community," she said.
As part of the Christmas effort, the annual Salvation Army Radiothon and Toy Drive is set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 1 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 2 at Ashley Furniture in downtown Massena. The event airs on WMSA radio.
The Salvation Army is collecting items to auction during the radiothon. Anyone who wants to donate an item can call the office and ask for Lt. White. Auction items can be picked up.
Organizations or individuals can also start collecting new toys for children in the community. Those can be brought to Ashley Furniture during the radiothon hours.
In addition, monetary donations are also appreciated. Checks or cash labeled "Christmas" can be brought to Ashley Furniture and will be used to support the Salvation Army's community efforts.
Lt. White said they also have an Angel Tree set up at Walmart, where customers can take a tag with information about a child and purchase an item for them.
"Their families have put down what they want. They have their name, age, their size for clothing and what their interests are," she said.
The gifts are provided unwrapped to the Salvation Army, which she said gives parents some ownership in the process.
"They pick it up and they can come home and wrap it and put it under the tree," Lt. White said.
The Christmas food packages will be distributed on Dec. 21, and families with children receiving toys will receive those along with their food on Dec. 23.
Lt. White said assistance is needed not just for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but throughout the year.
"The price of food is very expensive. We've seen an increase in our food pantry numbers as well because of the price of food. They're not coming just once a month, but twice a month or even three times a month because they need to make ends meet," she said. "We welcome anybody regardless of the situation. Our pantry is open to anybody."