JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
The holiday season is here, and the Salvation Army of Mid-Missouri is preparing for more need as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
The pandemic led to widespread job losses. In Cole County, 5,669 people have filed for unemployment because of the virus between March 15 and Saturday, according to the state's unemployment dashboard.
Major Curtiss Hartley, the regional coordinator for Salvation Army in Jefferson City and Columbia, said the non-profit is gearing up for its usual Christmas rush, but there is a lot more need this year.
"We have a lot of families requesting regular Christmas assistance, but we are also seeing a lot of folks with needs like power bills and rent, and those kinds of things that's a real challenge for them right now," Hartley said.
A spokeswoman for the non-profit said one afternoon last week in Jefferson City alone, a case manager had more than 60 voicemails for rental and utility assistance.
The need is expected to go far beyond the holiday season into the new year, Hartley said.
Hartley said the Salvation Army is also worried about its holiday-season Red Kettle campaign. The organization is having trouble getting bell ringers and fewer people are out shopping as the virus spreads at record levels.
"There are concerns about not just our ability to meet needs a Christmas, but to sustain our budget throughout the coming year," Hartley said.
Even with the concerns, Hartley said some of their bell ringers have reported people being a lot more generous this year with larger donations.
One of his greatest concerns was the lack of volunteers.
"Some of our staff is having to step up and work many extra hours doing what they can to keep the wheels rolling," Hartley said.
For Thanksgiving, the non-profit has to change up its usually sit-down meal. While the residents of Salvation Army shelters in Jefferson City and Columbia will have a sit-down Thanksgiving dinner, community members have to pick up their meals curbside.
In Jefferson City, meals were set to be handed out from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday. In Columbia, meals were handed out from noon until 1 p.m.
A line formed around 11 a.m. Thursday with people signing up to pick up meals.
The chef at the Jefferson City Salvation Army, Debbie Kuhn, said they expect to feed more than 200 people on Thursday.
"We've done this for so many years," Kuhn said. "There are still people having the same needs as they had last year before COVID, there's always someone who's going to need services."
This year, the kitchen looked a lot different, as no volunteers were in the kitchen. Kuhn said she and the shelter residents had a little more space to work this year.
"We've been preparing all week for this," Kuhn said.
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