Response following the Salvation Army’s plea for help supplying toys for needy children was overwhelming, Maj. Joseph Pawlowski said.
“I can’t emphasize enough what an outpouring of love and concern was shown by the people of Johnstown,” Pawlowski said at the Salvation Army’s 576 Vine St. headquarters.
Three weeks ago, Pawlowski was concerned because many of Treasures for Children program’s tags had not been claimed. Another component addresses needs of seniors and grandparents raising grandchildren.
“We are in dire need of people to step up to help out,” Pawlowski told The Tribune-Democrat last month.
Step up they did.
“Within two days, with people coming in here or calling on the phone, we had a majority of our Treasure Tags out,” he said.
But now Pawlowski is hoping the gifts arrive in time for distribution. The deadline is Tuesday, but he has volunteers already working to organize and prepare the donated gifts for distribution on Dec. 18.
“Now it is time to act on those Treasure Tags,” he said. “I am sure many people did (act) on Black Friday and Saturday. They had time to shop, not only for themselves, but for the needy, and take advantage of the sales.”
Groups sort the donations and triple check to see that each child receives at least two items of clothing and a gift similar to one they requested, he said.
More than 400 families receive help through the program, which reaches from 1,200 to 1,500 people each year, he said.
A collaborative registration process involving several other local Christmas gift drives enabled the Salvation Army to reach more children this year, Pawlowski said. Spearheaded by the United Way of the Laurel Highlands, the program required families to register with a shared confidential database.
The database prevented families from double-dipping by receiving toys from several agencies and helped to match families with the agency best equipped to provide their needs, Pawlowski noted.
Treasures for Children represents a broad spectrum of area organizations, businesses and families, but Pawlowski said he is encouraged by the number of young people who are shopping.
When another organization realized it had overestimated its ability to help, Richland High School Key Club stepped in to take even more Treasure Tags.
“They have really come out and helped us,” Pawlowski said.
The Key Club is affiliated with East Hills Kiwanis Club of Johnstown, which has also taken on the Treasures for Children project for several years.
Meanwhile, the Salvation Army’s 28-county Western Pennsylvania Division’s Red Christmas Kettle Campaign is trailing behind 2012 figures by more than $307,000, leaders said.
“Most kettle campaigns aren’t out in full force until Thanksgiving week, said Maj. William H. Bode, the divisional commander. “Since the holiday fell on Nov. 28 this year, that means we have a start six days later than last year. It means far fewer days to raise money.”
Randy Griffith is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/photogriffer57.