Choosing toys

Faida Kaniole of Manchester, and originally from Congo, looks over the toy choices for her children during the annual Salvation Army Toy Shop at the DoubleTree in Manchester in December 2019. The program is supported by the Union Leader Santa Fund.

If you need help providing toys for your kids this holiday season, officials with the Salvation Army warn time is running out to apply for assistance.

Captain Nora McNeil with the Salvation Army in Manchester says the last application windows for toys for children are Dec. 1, 2 and 3, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Those looking to apply can do so in person at the Salvation Army offices at 121 Cedar St.

The Salvation Army in Manchester has seen a 155% increase in requests for assistance this year, said Capt. Scott McNeil, commanding officer of Manchester’s Salvation Army.

A meal program for children that fed about 100 people last year now regularly serves more than 170 meals, McNeil said.

“It’s been a major undertaking,” said Capt. Nora McNeil.

Capt. Scott McNeil said the Salvation Army has been working to provide activities for local youth, while following COVID-19 safety recommendations.

“We did have a modified camp in the summer,” he said. “They stayed within the CDC regulations with the number of people we could actually have in the size of the building. Still, they went to a lot of places, a couple of fun spots and really just enjoyed the summer as best they could. We just didn’t want to hold back on an opportunity for young people to still do what they like to do.”

Many of those seeking assistance this year have never asked the Salvation Army for help before. At the same time, the pandemic means there are only about half as many stores welcoming Salvation Army bell-ringers with their red kettles, McNeil said.

“Our major concern is community support, because our red kettles are not going to be out there as much as you would expect,” said Capt. Nora McNeil. “Our main concern is community support, so we can continue doing what we’re doing to help those that are in need.”

For 60 years, The Union Leader Santa Fund has supported The Salvation Army. Santa Fund dollars provide warm clothing, meals and toys for local families during the holidays, as well as support for Kids’ Café, summer camps and other critical programs and community services.

In its first year, the Santa Fund brought in $1,000 to support The Salvation Army’s Christmas efforts. Since then, nearly $7.9 million has been raised thanks to the generosity of local businesses and individuals.

Contribute to the Santa Fund at www.unionleader.com or mail a check to The Santa Fund, c/o New Hampshire Union Leader, PO Box 9555, Manchester, NH, 03109.

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