MERCED — Elaine Gale has heard a number of sad stories as needy individuals and families approach the Christmas season.
Gale is the coordinator for the A Helping Hand at Christmas program, a collaborative effort between the Merced Salvation Army Corps and the Merced Sun-Star now in its 26th year. She interviewed people seeking aid from the Salvation Army.
Area residents have contributed $35,600 for the Helping Hand program, which has a $55,000 goal for the 2013 Christmas season. The Sun-Star solicits and collects Helping Hand donations, which are used by the Salvation Army throughout the year.
Jason Cross, the Sun-Stars publisher and advertising director, encourages area residents to continue their Helping Hand contributions.
With more than 80 families on the waiting list for assistance from this years fundraising goal, it is of utmost importance to spread the word, Cross said. We continue to encourage the community to join in and help the Salvation Army reach their goal this year and show that Merced does stand together.
Gale said the Salvation Army was able to assist about 40 families needing help with rent, making utility payments or getting car repairs.
Some people lost jobs or have been out of work, Gale said. There are some really sad stories of people who dont know what they are going to do.
Gale said the Salvation Army just distributed 300 food baskets with funds that come from the Helping Hand donations. People told her that some of those in need had lost jobs because of this areas poor economy, and accidents or sickness prevented them from working. In some cases, she said, disability payments had run out.
The Helping Hand program was originated by the late John Wainwright, a Merced real estate agent and developer who noticed that a similar program under way in the Monterey area appeared to be successful. He approached the Sun-Star management and the program was implemented.
More than $1 million has been raised in the Helping Hands previous 25 years. Gale said contributions will be received until early in the new year.
Donors have the option of having an appropriate message of 10 words or less printed in the Merced Sun-Star or they can remain anonymous.
Donations can be sent to A Helping Hand at Christmas at 23 W. Alexander Ave., PMB 68, Merced 95348.
Sun-Star staff writer Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.