Salvation Army preparing for holiday season

The Salvation Army in Fort Dodge is getting ready to help serve the needy during the holidays.

A wide range of people come to The Salvation Army for meals, said Sharka Alstott, social program manager.

“We have a five-days-a-week feeding program, compassion kitchen program, that provides noon meals for this community,” Alstott said. “We also have the community center open every morning so people can come in and just have a cup of coffee, doughnut, juice. A breakfast or snack. And we open fairly early so no one really goes hungry in this community.”

She added, “We also have a social services program, which the food pantry is part of, where we provide for the needy in the community.”

With the holidays coming, the need is greater.

“We go through so much food and paper products and you name it,” Alstott said. “Because of the size, the number of people, we’re really running low and with the holidays coming up we’re going to need so much more.”

Every year, The Salvation Army provides a communitywide Thanksgiving dinner.

“We see around 500 people,” Alstott said. “And with Christmas approaching, we have again Christmas programs, where we serve around 500 individuals through the Christmas assistance, where we provide them with groceries so they can prepare their own Christmas dinner and depending on the response from the community we also try to provide the children with gifts.”

According to Alstott, the need is great.

“If you’re aware of the unemployment numbers in Webster County, the need is so very great,” she said. “We even get requests from surrounding counties. The Salvation Army can serve Webster County residents through their social services program. But we get requests from other counties as well.”

The Salvation Army’s kettle campaign kicks off Nov. 15 to raise funds for these programs and services.

“It’s always a big kickoff at the Fort Dodge Crossroads mall, and the 16th is when they would start the campaign and go through Christmas Eve day,” Alstott said. “They’re hoping to raise as much as last year, the goal was $200,000. We did not meet the goal, but we’re going to try to shoot again for the same amount, because the need is great.”

Monetary donations are always accepted, Alstott said.

“A lot of times, some of the items we get donated we can always use, because we provide other social services as well,” she said. “If the money’s there, we try to help people with their medical needs, emergency trips to Iowa City hospital and so forth.”

She added, “Eighty percent of every dollar that is being donated through The Salvation Army goes back into the community. We have very little overhead.”

Alstott said the donations benefit the community as a whole, as well as its needy.

“We try to help them at their point of need, not just to give them handouts and create dependency. We’re trying to give them a hand up, and help them become self-sufficient again. That’s our goal,” she said. “Every client is free individually to see what the real need is, whether our service will meet the need or not, and to determine how we can best that client and help them.”