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The Salvation Army, agencies collaborate to give gifts to Manitowoc families in need

By Cindy Hodgson , Herald Times Reporter

1255 days ago   Article ID# 736614
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The Salvation Army

MANITOWOC , WISCONSIN (Herald Times Reporter) - Amber Wiedemann and her 2-year-old son, Braydon, received a lot of nice Christmas gifts last year.

Wiedemann, of Manitowoc, said she got clothes, a bracelet, gift cards and even carpet for her living room. Her son received a handmade blanket, clothes, books and toys.

All of the presents were from an anonymous donor through the Manitowoc County Christmas Program, the annual gift program spearheaded by The Salvation Army.

Wiedemann, 24, said she was "very appreciative."

She said she works part time and is supporting her son on her own. Wiedemann will receive gifts for Braydon through the program again this year.

When she went to pick up the gifts last year and saw all of the wrapped presents at the distribution center, she "teared up," she said.

"I hope I can do that one day for somebody else," Wiedemann said.

Combined programs

Parents who can't afford to buy Christmas gifts for their children traditionally have turned to The Salvation Army's holiday program for help. Last year, for the first time, The Salvation Army partnered with the Manitowoc School District and the Lakeshore Community Action Program to help those in need. The Manitowoc County Human Services Department also referred its recipients and donors to the new joint program, according to Capt. Rachel Stouder, who has served The Salvation Army in Manitowoc with her husband, Capt. Jeremy Stouder, since July 2009.

"It was so successful doing that … that we opened it up to a lot more agencies this year," Stouder said.

Big Brothers Big Sisters, Lutheran Social Services and St. Francis of Assisi have agreed to participate in the joint venture, according to Stouder.

"We feel that this collaboration was a really, really good way to cut down on the duplication of services," she said.

When multiple agencies offer gift programs, some families apply to more than one even though they aren't supposed to, Stouder said, and consolidating helps prevent that. Putting it all under one umbrella also makes it easier for donors because they don't have to decide which programs to support.

Adoption and distribution

The Manitowoc County Christmas Program consists of two components. Some families are "adopted," which means someone buys gifts for everyone in the family, including the parents. For families that aren't adopted, volunteers help the parents shop for free gifts for their children at the distribution center, which in recent years has been The Salvation Army's former thrift shop at North Ninth and Chicago streets. All recipients also receive food to be used for a Christmas dinner.

Stouder said some applications are flagged as being good candidates for adoption based on their circumstances, such as a death in the family, a medical crisis or expenses exceeding income. Families cannot be adopted two years in a row, she said, but they can receive gifts for their children every year.

Individuals, families and groups may contact The Salvation Army to ask for a family to adopt. They're matched with a family and given the first name, age, gender and clothing size of each family member, as well as a list of gift suggestions.

People not interested in or able to adopt an entire family may donate toys for the distribution center. Stouder said it seems many people enjoy shopping for 4- to 6-year-old girls because there's no shortage of toys for those children. Gifts for infants, toddlers and teenagers are especially needed. Ideas for teens include hair accessories, makeup, movies, hand-held video games, twin sheet sets and gift cards, especially to electronics stores.

Increased need

Stouder said she's worried about the large number of families she expects will apply this year. Sign-up usually begins in November, but an early sign-up period was offered in October, and people were lined up down the sidewalk.

"Just in two and a half days of sign-ups, we saw almost 200 families," she said.

Many of those families were first-time participants, according to Stouder.

Last year, the program served 676 families, and "we were able to adopt out 218 of those families," she said. "It would be great if we could see 50 percent adopted."

Stouder said some applications are flagged as being good candidates for adoption based on their circumstances, such as a death in the family, a medical crisis or expenses exceeding income. Families cannot be adopted two years in a row, she said, but they can receive gifts for their children every year.

Individuals, families and groups may contact The Salvation Army to ask for a family to adopt. They're matched with a family and given the first name, age, gender and clothing size of each family member, as well as a list of gift suggestions.

People not interested in or able to adopt an entire family may donate toys for the distribution center. Stouder said it seems many people enjoy shopping for 4- to 6-year-old girls because there's no shortage of toys for those children. Gifts for infants, toddlers and teenagers are especially needed. Ideas for teens include hair accessories, makeup, movies, hand-held video games, twin sheet sets and gift cards, especially to electronics stores.

Increased need

Stouder said she's worried about the large number of families she expects will apply this year. Sign-up usually begins in November, but an early sign-up period was offered in October, and people were lined up down the sidewalk.

"Just in two and a half days of sign-ups, we saw almost 200 families," she said.

Many of those families were first-time participants, according to Stouder.

Last year, the program served 676 families, and "we were able to adopt out 218 of those families," she said. "It would be great if we could see 50 percent adopted."

Applicants must bring a photo ID, Social Security cards for all family members, proof of address for everyone in the household and proof of income. Stouder said income requirements follow government guidelines for commodities, so basically if people qualify for food stamps, they will qualify for the program.

Donations of gifts are due Dec. 13. They may be dropped off at the former thrift shop during the sign-up hours listed above or at other times at The Salvation Army office, 411 N. Sixth St. Those who adopt families may wrap the gifts for the parents, but all gifts for children must be unwrapped. Donors may provide wrapping paper if they'd like.

For more information or to adopt a family, contact Stouder at (920) 684-7117 or rachel_stouder@usc.salvationarmy.org.

Copyright 2014 Herald Times Reporter   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 1255 days ago   Article ID# 736614

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