Salvation Army preps food boxes, gifts for those in need
HUNTINGTON — On Saturday afternoon, Huntington firefighter Chris Wilson and his family were thinking outside the box — literally.
At one of the ReoLogistics Warehouses in the Highlawn neighborhood, Wilson, his wife, Amy, and teen sons Chase and Carson were folding up and taping 1,000 cardboard boxes as fast as they could in a volunteer-filled assembly line effort to pack the Salvation Army’s food boxes that will be distributed to those in need for the upcoming holidays.
The Wilson family were among the dozens of volunteers who came out Saturday to help the effort. Wilson said his heart for helping the Salvation Army dates directly back to the night of Jan. 13, 2007, when he was one of the firefighters on the scene working the Emmons fire, one of the most tragic fires in the city’s history that killed nine people.
“That night of the Emmons fire, the sun was coming up, and there they were serving breakfast in the middle of Third Avenue, and I saw what they do for those in need,” Wilson said.
Since then, he has pitched in to help the Salvation Army with Thanksgiving, with their holiday food boxes and their angel trees.
“This is the only charity I like to support because 99 percent of what they do goes local,” Wilson said, folding boxes together while his sons taped them. “Everything goes to what it supports, and it goes local. I am big in keeping things local whether it’s charities or farming.”
Lt. Liz Blusiewicz, commanding officer for the Salvation Army of Huntington at 1227 3rd Ave., said it takes the generosity and muscle of the community to make the giant task of providing 1,000 families with all the ingredients for a ham dinner for Christmas.
She said Jeff Johnson of ReoLogistics, which is located on 26th Street in the Highlawn neighborhood, donated one of its warehouses to house the 1,000 boxes and volunteer effort. And she said it is those coins and dollars tossed into the Army’s famed red kettles at area grocery stores that has helped pay for these meals.
“It costs us about $12,000 to buy the food, and that is why I tell people when you pass a red kettle put a dollar in there,” Blusiewicz said. “We started ordering the food back in October, and then we ordered the boxes, so really it has been October to now. And today is like go day. We will get those done today, and then we will have two weeks to get all of the toys ready that go with these boxes because each of these boxes represents a family that is getting assistance from the Salvation Army this Christmas.”
Retired Huntington firefighter Jerry Beckett has been involved with the effort for years. He was one of about a dozen volunteers from Mount Union United Methodist Church in Huntington.
“It takes everybody,” Beckett said of the effort. “All of the agencies coming together and the county folks and the Huntington firefighters, and the faith groups and the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts are all coming here to help those in need.”
Blusiewicz said the Salvation Army is grateful not only for the help this weekend but for the giving spirit so far this holiday season. Local kettles are up about $10,000 over last season. She said they have raised about $72,000 so far and have a goal of $215,000 for the season.
“I think people know that the Salvation Army is out every week here serving food out of the Canteen and know that we just did the disaster down in Florida after the hurricane, and so people are really opening up their wallets and giving more than I have ever seen,” Blusiewicz said.
She said one of the main things they hope to do if they reach their goal is to replace their food truck or mobile feeding unit that they call the Canteen.
“We really need to kick it in gear here now as we are in December,” said said. “We really need that $215,000 because our mobile feeding unit, our Canteen, is about ready to die on us. It is getting old, so I would really love to get us a new Canteen and the only way that is going to happen is through the red kettles.”
Help the Salvation Army
Find out more about the Salvation Army of Huntington at 304-529-2401. The Salvation Army is still looking for volunteers for its Angel Tree Elf Night to help sort packages for its Angel Tree recipients. That is set for Dec. 14-15.