Volunteers are the heart of Salvation Army

CRYSTAL PUGSLEY/PLAINSMAN Salvation Army officers Lts. Shannon and Justin Bluer pose next to the trailer that will be decorated and filled with Christmas lights for the upcoming Parade of Lights Friday in Huron.

It takes a lot of people working together to make Christmas a little brighter for those who are in need, and the need is great this holiday season, say Lts. Justin and Shannon Bluer, officers who began serving the local Salvation Army in June.

Right now, volunteers can help ring bells next to the traditional red buckets used each year to collect money at local stores, and make sure interested shoppers receive Angel Tree tags from trees set up at both Runnings and Walmart this year.

“We do have enough volunteers for the Angel Tree at Runnings, but we’re running short of volunteers at Walmart,” Shannon said. “You will be sitting inside, and it’s for three-hour shifts.

“It helps make those Christmas wishes come true,” she added. “We have to get those Angel Tree tags into the hands of donors who are on their way to shop.”

People can sign up for Christmas baskets and Angel Tree gifts for their children today (Nov. 23) from 1 to 3 p.m. and Nov. 28-30 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Salvation Army. A list of verification requirements in four languages is available in the Salvation Army foyer.

Last year more than 720 toys and 400 items of clothing were wrapped and tucked under trees for area children.

“They had to purchase 633 of those toys last year, which was a total of $7,610,” Shannon said. “I have a list of volunteer shoppers who will help us.”

Other volunteers will be needed to sort gifts picked up for the Angel Tree or picking toys up from different locations.

“We could use help even around our Corps, just cleaning,” Justin added. “Our janitor is a bell ringer now.”

Shannon said they will not be wrapping the toys before distributing them to families this year. Instead, they will supply wrapping paper with the Christmas Food Baskets so parents can wrap the gifts themselves and place them under their tree.

In just the few months that the Bluer’s have been in Huron, they’ve seen the need for food assistance and other help growing.

“We have been getting more calls with people needing help with utilities and food,” Justin said. “We have our coat drive going on now, with a box at Lewis and at Walmart.”

They feed about 40 or more daily in their Genesis Feeding Program, and average 75 to 100 who come in each month to receive a box of food. Families can receive a box of food every two months.

“In November and December, you’re talking Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, that number might increase a little,” Shannon said. “There is a bigger need. We’re supposed to be supplemental, but people are hungry and just trying to keep a roof over their head and pay the bills.

“We try to help people, and at the same time remind them of the hope we have in Jesus,” she added. “He is the reason for the season.”

The couple, who have three children at home, including a special needs daughter, are entering the busiest time of the year at the Salvation Army. “People ask how can we help the officers,” Shannon said. “If we could get only a couple meals. My husband doesn’t get home from the Corps until just before bed. If he had something to eat at the Corps while I’m home with our daughter, that would be so great.

“We depend so much on the volunteers, we so appreciate them,” Shannon added. “The volunteers are the heart of what we do.”

If you are interested in volunteering, contact the couple at the Salvation Army, 605-352-3438.

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