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Hot summer days are upon us, and most of our activities are centered around camps, re-stocking food pantries, and collecting school supplies for back-to-school events. But it’s also a good time to look back at the last year and share some of the wonderful stories from around the state that were shared after the busy Christmas season. Below are two from northern and southern Indiana that exemplify how diverse needs can be, especially at Christmastime. As we look ahead to another season of bell ringing, these stories remind us why those tiny bells mean so much to so many.

Hope for a Father of Four

Being a single dad is tough, especially with four children under the age of seven. James had recently moved to the small town of West Lebanon and was building a new life for his family. Though he was working hard to provide for his children, James was facing the very real possibility of a Christmas without gifts under the tree. Every cent of his paycheck was going toward necessities, and there simply wasn’t room in his budget for holiday spending.

Dana Craft, who serves double duty as the town’s Clerk Treasurer and The Salvation Army’s Service Extension Representative for Warren County, wanted to help this struggling family enjoy their first Christmas in their new community. Using Salvation Army funds to kick-start the effort, Dana and her team of volunteers purchased clothing, pajamas, winter coats, boots and a toy for each of James’ children.

Word quickly spread that The Salvation Army was doing something special for James and his children, and donations began pouring in. The entire community jumped on board with donations of bikes, helmets, toys and food for Christmas dinner. Two volunteers spent hours wrapping the gifts in order to have them ready for Christmas Eve.

“We are a very small community,” Dana explains. “The people in our community are awesome! If there is a need they will rise to the occasion and help. This is a Christmas those kids will remember forever.”

Christmas Eve rolled around, and the family got a surprise visit from Santa himself when the gifts were delivered to their home. James was overcome with gratitude for The Salvation Army and the community that had rallied around his family to bring such unexpected joy to his household. He found hope in the love shown to his family and discovered the strength of a community at his back.

No Crib for a Bed

retro 1There is no greater gift to give a foster child than a loving home. First-time foster parents Susanna and Luke were awaiting the chance to open their home and hearts to a child in need when they got the call. A newborn girl in their community needed placement in a safe, stable home.

Like all babies, this tiny blessing needed more than love – she needed diapers, clothing, formula and much more. Susanna and Luke were able to quickly assemble a nursery for the baby girl, but one item was missing: a crib.

That’s when The Salvation Army stepped in. Sherry Davis, who leads the all-volunteer Advisory Council in Daviess County, had reached out to child protective services to ask if there were any local foster families in need of Christmas assistance. Each winter funds are set aside to help school-age children, including several in the foster system, go on a shopping spree for items they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. Kids shop for winter gear, athletic shoes, clothing for school and other personal items.

When Sherry contacted Susanna, she learned that her family’s needs didn’t include toys to put under the tree or clothing for school. A new crib was a costly expense, and Susanna wasn’t sure how they could afford one on such short notice.

“We had 23 kids who were shopping for clothing, shoes, hats, mittens, etc. Each one had $80 to use, but we were able to find $100 to help in this special case,” recalls Sherry. “As luck would have it, we managed to find a crib for $95!”

With the new crib in place, Susanna and Luke welcomed the baby girl to her new home just in time for Christmas. “They were very, very thankful to get the crib,” Sherry shares, “And especially grateful that The Salvation Army was able to help out.”

retro 3Thanks to the support of donors in communities across Indiana, people like James, Susanna and Luke know that The Salvation Army is ready and able to help them in a time of need. Whether you drop change in a kettle or make transformational gifts through planned giving, you are changing lives at Christmas and throughout the year. Thank you, and God bless!