BY ED GEBERT

Times Bulletin Editor

egebert@timesbulletin.com

VAN WERT - The Salvation Army of Van Wert is used to long hours and hard work at this time of year, but for Christmas 2012, the organization has stepped up to do more. In the absence of the Toys For Tots program this year, the Salvation Army has stepped up to oversee many toy donations in the area in addition to the normal campaigns for winter coats and the traditional red kettles and bell ringers.
"We have wonderful volunteers, but we're doing a lot more work than ever before," stated Maj. Arthur Barter. He told the Times Bulletin that his main concern right now is the Coats for Kids program which tries to provide winter coats for children in the county.

The local red kettle campaign got off to a slow start this year due to a new national agreement between the Salvation Army and the Walmart Corporation which restricts soliciting outside Walmart stores until after Thanksgiving Day. Barter noted that the later start probably cost the red kettle campaign two weeks worth of donations. However, Barter was quick to point out that the relationship between the retailer and Salvation Army continues to be strong.

"This is actually the fiftieth anniversary of the agreement between Walmart and the Salvation Army," he said. "They have really been great partners, especially the folks at the Van Wert Walmart."

Although donations are running behind by a sizable amount, Barter thinks the totals will be there by the end of the campaign. He stated that a nice surprise may make up for the lost two weeks of Walmart shopper donations.

"We've picked up Pick 'n Save Foods this year," Barter explained. "That might help turn things around for us."

He continued by saying it is the first time a Salvation Army kettle has been present outside Pick 'n Save.

The newest area for Christmas assistance for the Van Wert corps is the area that is having the most success.

"We are going to turn out to be toy-rich!" Barter predicted. Already the Wetzel Motorcycle Club has shopped for 150 kids helped through the Salvation Army, buying $9,000 worth of Christmas presents last weekend.

Another campaign is collecting toys to assist. The Toss a Toy promotion at Lee Kinstle GM Sales & Service will help brings smiles to area children this Christmas. In addition, Barter noted that a special promotion at Walmart this Saturday will help bring in more toys. Named Fill The Truck, the promotion will feature a cardboard truck set up at the Van Wert Walmart. The idea is to fill the truck with toys to be given through the Salvation Army.

Barter thanked the many generous businesses and individuals who have and will be donating this month to the Salvation Army's efforts as well as the dozens of volunteers who give their time and energy to help others at the Christmas season.