There are a few things missing from underneath the tree as Wichita heads into Christmas.
Operation Holiday has only 25 percent of the food it needs for its annual donations to families, which start Thursday. The Salvation Army needs volunteers to help with its toy distribution this week. And Catholic Charities is running low on men’s gloves and blankets for the donations it has already started to give out to long lines of people this week.
But some of the stockings are full. Toys for Tots fulfilled its requests for toys and even had a surplus this year, said Marine Staff Sgt. Frederick Shade. It has given out more than 22,000 toys and spent $47,000 on toys, Shade said. “We’re doing awesome.”
Meanwhile, Operation Holiday on Tuesday was short $90,000 in cash donations and 82,000 food items for the more than 14,000 people it will help. “We just have to reduce” the amount given to each family if donations don’t come through, said Anne Corriston of Inter-Faith Ministries, which runs Operation Holiday. Especially needed: money, peanut butter, soup, canned fruit and vegetables and cereal. Deliveries can be made to 829 N. Market.
“I don’t think people know we’re a week and a half from Christmas,” Salvation Army Maj. Douglas Rowland said Tuesday. Donations have been down at the red kettles and by mail, he said, and the distribution of toys to 11,000 children is a huge undertaking that needs volunteers, Rowland said.
“Wichita is a great giving community, so somehow it always happens. We wonder some days, but it always happens.”
The Salvation Army has raised about 40 percent of the $1.7 million it hopes to take in at kettles and by mail for its giving year-round. For Christmas, in addition to toys, the Salvation Army gives food vouchers and will hand out more than 3,000 turkeys from Cargill. “It’s pretty exciting,” Rowland said.
Catholic Charities’ Christmas Sharing program began serving people Monday, and the line started forming at 6:30 a.m. and at times stretched down the street, said Wendy Glick of Catholic Charities. The day’s donations were scheduled to end at noon but didn’t wrap up until 1:30 p.m., she said.
“We’re serving three times what we did in the past” — 3,000 people this year, she said. “What we’re seeing throughout the year — not just at Christmas — is that it’s just taking people longer to get back on their feet. … It’s more difficult for them to get ahead or to break even.”
Donations for the holiday meal that the Christmas Sharing program provides have been “very, very strong,” Glick said, but there aren’t enough men’s gloves and blankets. Donations can be taken to 532 N. Broadway or 241 N. Indiana.
Share the Season, a program that provides one-time help for people who don’t qualify for other programs, has raised about $152,000 so far, and it hopes to raise more than the $217,000 it received last year, said Rob Allison of the Wichita Community Foundation.
“We’ve been doing it for 12 years, and we’re seeing that same philanthropic nature of Wichita,” Allison said. But while donations have been consistent so far this holiday season, he said, “The needs are higher than last year.”