JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With Thanksgiving just over a week away, the Salvation Army of Northeast Florida is preparing to distribute food to 1,000 local families in need. Major Keath Biggers with the charity says the need for assistance has significantly increased due to COVID-19.
The annual giveaway often brings smiles, a feeling of community, and fellowship. While this year’s event will look different because of the pandemic, Biggers looks forward to seeing the families.
“It’s a blessing,” Biggers said. “Sometimes we take those Thanksgiving meals for granted, but the needs are greater than ever before.”
Biggers says many of the businesses the charity relied on for food drives throughout the year are having to cope with setbacks because of the effects of COVID-19.
“We had to invest some of our own operations dollars this year to take care because of the increased needs,” Biggers said. “We know the community will step up and help us.”
Biggers says enough turkeys have been donated for the giveaway, but side items like cranberry sauce, stuffing, and canned goods are still needed. They can be dropped off at the Towers Center of Hope at 900 West Adams Street, Jacksonville, FL 32202. This is the same location where the distribution itself will take place, Tuesday, November 24th.
The need doesn’t end with Thanksgiving. The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program is coming up in December. Biggers says last year, the charity provided gifts for 3,500 children whose families are in need.
“This year, we already have 5,000 boys and girls that will be put on the angel tree that we will be providing Christmas gifts and clothing,” Biggers said. “So, the need is greater.”
Biggers says Salvation Army Angel Trees will appear in participating stores, giving local shoppers the opportunity to select a child or children from the tree and to purchase or drop off gifts onsite.
“We’re asking for anyone that can help to go to Ashley HomeStores, local Walmarts, Avenues Mall, and pick up some angels and provide a gift,” Biggers said. “We will make sure those children get those gifts the week before Christmas.”
Those who prefer to do their shopping online can visit the Angel Tree registry. Through the site, customers can shop for gifts and have them delivered directly to the Jacksonville local Salvation Army.
There are other ways to help this holiday season. For instance, the Salvation Army’s Red Kettles and iconic bell ringers will be at participating Walmart stores even earlier this year, starting Saturday, November 21. The Salvation Army is adopting nationally mandated safety protocols for physical kettles to help ensure the safety of bell ringers, donors, and partners.
Walmart will offer customers the option to round up their purchases to the nearest dollar and donate the difference to The Salvation Army. Customers can do this in stores at manned cash registers, on Walmart.com, or through the Walmart app. The option to donate will run through December 31.
“We’ve been blessed with the resources we’ve gotten from the community,” Biggers said. “We know it’s only to increase with the needs that are coming down the pipe.”
The Thanksgiving distribution is happening on November 24. Due to COVID-19, receiving families will arrive by appointment to help with social distancing. For more information about donating or helping the mission.