CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- October hasn't even arrived, and the phones are ringing at the Salvation Army's headquarters on Tennessee Avenue in Charleston.Jessica Eads, executive assistant for the Salvation Army's Charleston Area Command, said needy families are already calling to find out when they can sign up for the annual Angel Tree program.The Angel Tree program exists to help provide Christmas gifts for children who might not otherwise receive anything on Dec. 25.Parents sign their children up for the program, and their names are written on the back of little paper angels, along with the kinds of toys they'd like to get for Christmas. The angels are then hung on a big Christmas tree at Charleston Town Center Mall.Local citizens then take the angels and agree to buy the toys for the children. Eads said the Angel Tree will go up this year on Nov. 8.Salvation Army volunteers expect more children than ever to sign up this year."The economy is bad," she said. "Every year, more and more people come to us for help."
Last year, more than 1,200 kids got presents through the Angel Tree program. This year, the number is expected to jump to 2,500.And not all of those children will find sponsors to buy gifts, Eads said."Every year we fall short," she said. "A lot of the angels don't get adopted, and we need to find money [to buy toys]. That's one of the reasons we ring the bells."Applications for parents to sign up to get gifts through the program will be taken beginning next month. Angel Tree applications for Kanawha County will be taken Oct. 21-24 at the Salvation Army, 301 Tennessee Ave.Putnam County applications will be accepted Oct. 14-17 at Teays Valley Church of the Nazarene. Roane County applications will be taken Oct. 24-25 at the Salvation Army Thrift Store on Market Street in Spencer, and Clay County applications will be taken Oct. 21-25 at EnAct Inc. on Main Street in Clay.The program is for children between ages 6 months and 12 years. Applicants need to bring a photo ID, birth certificate and medical card for participating children, proof of income and expenses or a current letter for food stamps and have three toy choices for each child, with a $25 limit on each toy.Eads said the Salvation Army needs volunteers and donations to fund all of its holiday programs. For more information, call Eads at 304-343-4548, ext. 113.Reach Rusty Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1215.