HOULTON, Maine — While the Houlton corps of the Salvation Army just started taking applications this week for Christmas baskets, requests for basics such as fuel and rent assistance have already been streaming in from struggling families.
“People come to us for with whatever it is that they’ve decided they cannot afford,” explained Major Steve Pearl. “My wife was so busy this morning, she can’t keep up with the needs.”
His wife, Major Irma Pearl, said she expects an increase in requests for Christmas baskets.
“Already I am inundated with people asking for other types of services such as fuel assistance. They come to us because ACAP assistance hasn’t gone into effect.”
Steve Pearl said that since the beginning of the recession, client requests for help remain unabated.
“Families are just having a hard time making ends meet,” he said. “A couple of years ago when gas prices went up significantly, there was a big push for oil assistance. Then, came the recession. There is always something when people can’t afford everything. There is certainly a significant increase in new clients who have never been to us for assistance and previously had been OK.”
The annual Christmas assistance program provides baskets with toys for the children and essentials for a turkey dinner.
“I ask the parents for three items the child would like and if I can’t get them all, I try to get at least one of those items,” said Irma Pearl.
Anyone who wants to support the Salvation Army Christmas Assistance Program will find an Angel Tree at Walmart, Marden’s and other locations to be announced later.
Steve Pearl added that donations are welcomed and he still needs volunteers for the kettle drive.
Applicants for the Christmas baskets must bring identification for each member of the household along with proof of income, expenses and child custody by Monday, Dec. 14, to the office at 12 Court St. Applications for rent and fuel assistance are taken 10 a.m.-noon. and 1-3 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
For more information, call 532-2322.