Local groups high on holiday spirit, short on help

Dec. 15, 2012 @ 10:01 PM

Despite the daunting task of providing needy families and individuals with gifts this holiday season, several Lee County groups have tackled that cause head-on, including the local Salvation Army chapter and the Enrichment Center.

Terry Hertzog, sergeant of the Lee County Salvation Army, said he, his wife and co-sergeant Barbara, and other staff have been working non-stop since Thanksgiving in order to take care of the nearly 1,200 children on their list for holiday gifts, often running on just a few hours of sleep night after night. But the reward, he said, is worth it.

“You never want to see someone crying, but when we hand these out and there are the moms and dads there who just got laid off, seeing the looks on their faces is just amazing,” he said, gesturing around to the assorted bikes, basketballs, dolls, board games and other toys strewn around his office.

But there is a chance that this year, not everyone in the crowd at the armory at 147 McIver Street on Thursday and Friday will leave with the same thankful looks. Barbara Hertzog, a group sergeant like her husband, said on Saturday that the group still has between 100 and 125 children who have yet to receive sponsors.

Since the gifts won’t be distributed until late next week, though, anyone who wants to sponsor a child this Christmas can do so by getting in touch with Barbara Hertzog or by going to one of the local stores where the group has set up Angel Trees which carry the names and wish lists of various children. They’re at Belk, Roses, Walmart and Cracker Barrel.

Hertzog said anyone who wants to help out can call her at the office at (919) 718-1717 or on her cell phone at (919) 478-6357, can email her at barbara.hertzog@uss.salvationarmy.org or can simply swing by one of the Angel Tree locations or the Salvation Army offices at 507 N. Steele St.

The group also needs more volunteers for the iconic bell ringer positions at various kettles set up around the county.

At the Enrichment Center, the focus is on the county’s older population who often have to choose between key necessities at this time of year, said Social Work Supervisor Tami Carter. The center is helping a smaller group than the Salvation Army — about 140 — but still has 16 people who haven’t been sponsored, Carter said Friday.

The group is mainly asking for non-perishable food, she said, in order to relieve monetary pressure on some of the county’s elderly folks. They will also gladly accept slippers, blankets, gloves and other cold-weather attire of that nature, but don’t want items like shirts and pants since the clothes are given to anyone who needs them, regardless of the size or gender constraints that come with shirts, pants and the like.

But Carter stressed that food is the main concern because many seniors have to choose between eating and paying for their heating bills, other utilities or medicine — a problem she said becomes more serious in the winter months.

“We don’t want them to have to be in a situation where they have to choose between those kinds of things and food,” she said.

Carter said she will accept gifts until Wednesday and is always looking for volunteers or monetary donations that can be put toward this task or any number of other events the Enrichment Center sponsors throughout the year. People interested in helping can drop by the center, which is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at 1615 S. Third St.