The season of giving

The Salvation Army is helping locals in need with three core programs this holiday season

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

It’s hard to believe the holiday season is already upon us. In a few days, families will gather around bountiful tables of turkey, stuffing and homemade pie. And in just a few more, malls will be packed to the brim as loved ones search for the perfect Christmas presents. For so many locals, these traditions simply aren’t possible as they struggle to make ends meet. But thanks to the efforts of The Salvation Army of Levittown, which serves all of Bucks County, a little joy will be coming their way soon enough.

’Tis the season: This holiday season, The Salvation Army of Levittown, which serves Bucks County, has three core initiatives to help the community — the Red Kettle Campaign, Angel Tree Program and upcoming Thanksgiving dinner. PHOTO: The Salvation Army

Established in the county in 1898, The Salvation Army has been serving the local community for more than 100 years. With such a vast history, the organization and its services have established a solid reputation.

“They know they can come here when they need it,” said Adela Davis, community relations and development director of The Salvation Army’s Levittown Corps Community Center.

To celebrate the season of giving, The Salvation Army will host a community Thanksgiving dinner on Tuesday, Nov. 21, at 215 Appletree Drive in Levittown. According to Davis, the dinner has been a favorite tradition for more than 10 years. Approximately 300 guests are expected to attend, including those in need of a good meal as well as volunteers.

Food donations will come from a number of businesses, including the ShopRite in Fairless Hills, while the students of Council Rock High School South will cook the turkeys. Dinner will be served continuously from 6 to 8 p.m.

“It brings the community together,” Davis said. “It’s an afternoon of giving thanks.”

If individuals or businesses are interested in volunteering or donating, they can contact 215–945–0717 for more information. RSVPs are needed no later than Nov. 17.

Though they’re still in the midst of Thanksgiving preparations, The Salvation Army’s Christmas season has been underway since August, according to Davis. This was when local families in need signed up for its holiday assistance initiative, the Angel Tree Program. To apply, all someone had to do was submit a small wish list of three items, which could include everything from toys to clothing. This year, the program received 597 submissions from families and 1,255 from kids.

Once all wish lists were gathered, they were distributed by The Salvation Army to local businesses, churches and schools, who hung them on their location’s Angel Tree. The community is now able to “adopt” one of the children or families, and purchase the items on the list.

“It really involves the community in such a direct way,” Davis said.

For many, the Angel Tree Program has become a new holiday tradition for locals looking to spread a little cheer. On Dec. 20 and 21, the donated gifts will be collected, wrapped and distributed by volunteers. In addition, all items needed for a full Christmas meal will be packaged for each family.

“It’s a monumental task but it’s a lot of fun,” Davis said. “The Bucks County community comes together when they see that their neighbors are in need.”

Possibly The Salvation Army’s most well-known initiative is the Red Kettle Campaign, which Davis explained originated in San Francisco during the 1800s. Another holiday tradition for many families in the area, the campaign allows locals of all ages to stand outside while ringing a bell with the purpose of driving donations from passersby. Many times, a few dollars can mean groceries for a struggling family.

“We’re doing this for others,” Davis said. “We need to make it an example for that younger generation.”

Volunteers for bell ringing are still needed, and those interested should call 215–945–0717 to speak with Kim Fulper.

For Davis, these initiatives go beyond the holiday season. According to her, The Salvation Army’s goal is to forge relationships with struggling families in the community, building trust so they know where to turn all year long.

“Let us help you get out of whatever bad situation you are in,” she said. “That’s the reason why we do these programs. We’re called to serve the homeless, poor and hungry.”

Outside of the holiday season, The Salvation Army of Levittown has a food pantry open three days a week, available counseling services and a community dinner held once a month for the homeless in Bucks County. For more information, visit pa.salvationarmy.org/levittown and facebook.com/SalvationArmyBucksCounty. The Salvation Army Corps Community Center is located at 215 Appletree Drive in Levittown. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com