RICHMOND, Va. -- With a record number of Virginians out of work during the pandemic, for months families have struggled to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. Now as we head into the holiday season, the need for help will be just as great.
"We haven't decreased our capacity. It increased slightly, but the need is even greater than ever," Charlene Nieman said.
She works for the Richmond Salvation Army. She says last Christmas their organization served more than 4,000 Richmond families, distributing about 65,000 gifts through the Angel Tree program.
She knows it will be a very busy time for them this season.
"As expected, we are getting more people asking for help. We are also hearing about other organizations who had to shut down due to the pandemic. We are seeing an increased need because some people are coming from other programs that might have helped in the past," Nieman added.
Other programs are also stepping in to help families this holiday. The Chesterfield-Colonial Heights Christmas Mother program is accepting applications from families who live in those two localities until October 15.
We spoke with the 2020 Chesterfield-Colonial Heights Christmas Mother Phyllis Poats. She says this year will look different because of COVID-19.
They will not be distributing clothing, families will not be allowed in to shop for items this year, and there will be no sponsors to shop for participating families.
Instead, Poats says they will have families fill out their applications and include a wish list. From there, volunteers will assemble items to be donated to the families. Poats says on a designated day, recipients will pull up and volunteers will place the gifts in their trunk.
The Chesterfield-Colonial Heights Christmas Mother program helped 1,500 families last year. This year that number will increase by 500.
"We are looking to help as many people as we can," Poats added.
Applicants must go online and download the application, print it out and fill out the form then mail it back. Those applications and more information about the program can be found here.
If you live in Chesterfield or Colonial Heights and want to apply to the Christmas Mother but don’t have access to a computer to download the application, you can call their office at 804-748-1183.
In other areas, the Henrico Christmas Mother program is taking applications the first four Mondays in October. Families in that county can apply in person at 361 Dabbs House Road on October 12, 19, and 26. For more information, visit the Henrico Christmas Mother website.
Goochland's Christmas Mother program is taking applications via phone this year due to the pandemic. Families in need should call 804-556-3411 and leave a message. There will be no face to face applications taken. For more information, click here.
Powhatan Christmas Mother & Father program is also taking applications via phone. Powhatan County families who need help should call 804-337-1346. Leave your name, address, and a current contact phone number. Applications are being accepted until November 20. For more information, click here.
Hanover families who need assistance can reach out to the Hanover Christmas Mother program at 804-876-3644.
The Salvation Army Angel Tree registration closes on October 8th. Nieman says they are already very close to their max. The registration period for the Petersburg area is already closed.
Nieman says the best way for the community to help now is for donors to step up and adopt a family from the Angel Tree.
"We desperately need the community to help, businesses to help, churches to come out and adopt those angels. We also need volunteers this year," Nieman added.
If you would like to donate to the Salvation Army and help families during Christmas, there are several ways, including texting the word RVAKettle to 71777. For additional information on applying, go to www.salvationarmycentralva.org.