REIDSVILLE — With Christmas just 17 days away, the Salvation Army office in Reidsville wonders if it will have enough time and toys to help all the children on its needs list.

Parents of 1,018 children have gone to the agency this year seeking help with purchasing Christmas presents. That is 390 more children — or a 62 percent increase — than the number they helped in 2003.

The agency expects to handle most of the increase. But with time running out and money at a premium, organizers worry that as many as 200 children may not find a present under the tree this year.

“This is the biggest increase I’ve ever seen,” said Sgt. Wayne Tolar, who oversees the Reidsville office.

“We were expecting an increase of maybe 100 or 150 children, but we were not expecting this many to sign up. I guess it’s because of the economy. We are going into our third year of plant closings. Many of those people have jobs now, but they may be lower-paying jobs. For some, their unemployment is running out.”

And when money is low, many people turn to social agencies for help. That is what Jodi Adams, 37, of Ruffin did. Her husband has been laid off from his grass-cutting job for more than a year-and-a-half. The couple was able to get unemployment benefits in 2003, but those funds ran out in 2004.

Adams’ husband, Elvin Adams, 28, has applied for jobs, “but most of the jobs he’s applied for want you to have at least a high school diploma. All he has is an eighth-grade education,” she said. “We have two children (ages 6 and 8). It means a whole lot to me that the Salvation Army is there. They’ll make my kids’ Christmas a whole lot better.”

In past years, the Reidsville office has been able to help entire families with children up to age 18. But because of the increased demands, the agency has decided to limit its gifts to those 12 and under, said Jeanette Coone, the social service director for the Reidsville office.

Everyone who applies for help from the Salvation Army is at or slightly above the nation’s poverty level, Tolar said. For a mother with two children, that means a gross monthly income of $1,200.

The office offers help to people in Reidsville, Madison, Mayodan, Stoneville, Caswell County and parts of Stokesdale.

The Eden Salvation Army office is responsible for that area. That office has 353 requests for Christmas help — a decrease from last year, said Nancy Blackburn, food service manager.

Those interested in helping can find the names of children on “Angel Trees” in Kmart stores in Reidsville and Madison.

Most donors spend $50 or more on clothes and toys for a child, though the spending limit is up to the donor, Tolar said.

Organizers are hoping to get more people to donate items by Monday since they will begin giving the gifts to families Dec. 17.

Those who do not want to sponsor a specific child from an Angel Tree can drop off clothes, money or toys at the Salvation Army office in Reidsville.

Chris Miller, the owner of Appliance Specialist in Reidsville, held a bike-a-thon Nov. 28. He raised enough money to buy 43 new bicycles for children for the Angel Tree.

With so many more children on this year’s list, those bicycles will come in handy, Coone said.

Contact Cynthia Jeffries at 627-4881, Ext 126 or cjeffries@news-record.com

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