Salvation Army looking to adopt record number of Angel Tree children

The Salvation Army of Shelby and Chilton counties is looking for volunteers to adopt children participating in the organization's Angel Tree program this holiday season. (File)

The Salvation Army of Shelby and Chilton counties is looking for volunteers to adopt children participating in the organization’s Angel Tree program this holiday season. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – The Salvation Army of Shelby and Chilton counties is facing its highest-ever number of children participating in the organization’s Angel Tree program this year, and is looking for the public’s help to make sure the kids have a happy Christmas.

In 2013, the Salvation Army had a total of 474 children sign up for the program, through which businesses and community members purchase Christmas presents for children who otherwise wouldn’t receive any.

This year, the number jumped significantly to 730 children, 200 of who had not been adopted as of Dec. 2, according to Salvation Army Corps Director Lt. Jamie Leonard.

“We have a lot of brand new families this year who have never been a part of the program,” Leonard said during a Dec. 2 interview. “We just had a lot more families sign up this year.”

Leonard attributed the spike in participants to joblessness in the Salvation Army of Shelby and Chilton county’s coverage area, and to high power bills from the harsh 2014 winter.

“Many families couldn’t save their income tax returns from the spring because they were having to catch up on their astronomical utility bills from the harsh cold of last winter,” Leonard wrote in an email. “Many families have come in as first-time visitors to the agency’s Social Services Office in the last year, and now they need help again for Christmas. Many of them don’t know where to look for help, because they have never been in this situation before.”

The organization receives gifts donated to Angel Trees at Chick-Fil-A restaurants throughout Shelby County, and those gifts are often used to cover children who haven’t been adopted through the program.

“That usually means, however, that a child won’t necessarily get what they’ve asked for,” Leonard wrote.

Those interested in adopting a child from the Angel Tree can visit Big Lots on U.S. 31 in Pelham from Wednesday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-7 p.m., visit The Salvation Army office at 108 Plaza Circle in Alabaster or pick up an adoption form from Splash Hair Salon in Pelham or the Chelsea General Store on U.S. 280.

For more information, contact Leonard at jamie_leonard@uss.salvationarmy.org.

On Saturday, Dec. 6, Target in Alabaster is hosting a special event for those shopping for Angel Tree children. From 10 a.m.-noon, the store will have personal shoppers on hand to assist donors with purchasing gifts for children on the Angel Tree.

Shoppers will not be able to adopt angels on Dec. 6 at Target, instead shoppers will need to bring their child’s information with them in order to comply with Target’s no-solicitation policy.

Additionally, shoppers will receive a 20 percent off coupon for a future day of shopping at Target with a qualifying purchase. Free popcorn will be available at the store on Dec. 6, and Target will offer an express checkout line specifically for Angel Tree shoppers.