The Salvation Army's annual Angel Tree giving program in Lexington needs last-minute holiday help.
The program is scheduled to end Sunday afternoon, but 981 needy youngsters could be left without presents unless more people participate, said Major Debra Ashcraft, area coordinator with the Salvation Army.
In the program, people pick up Angel Tree cards at various locations, each card having the name, age, and wish list of a disadvantaged child who needs a Christmas present. Participants then buy as many gifts as they wish for the children and deliver them to the Salvation Army for distribution.
The program is trying to help more than 6,000 children this year, Ashcraft said. Angel Tree gift cards have been on display at various locations around town since shortly before Thanksgiving.
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Ashcraft said that as of Friday, 981 gift cards have not been picked up.
"Typically, at this point in the campaign we might have about 100 cards left," Ashcraft said. "But this year it's almost a thousand, and this late in the campaign it's very concerning."
Ashcraft said the Salvation Army needs Lexingtonians to turn out this weekend, pick up Angel Tree cards before the program closes at 2 p.m. Sunday, and buy presents for the children listed on the cards.
People can pick up the remaining cards at an Angel Tree display near Dillard's at Fayette Mall. She said the cards and unwrapped Christmas presents can be returned at the mall until 2 p.m. Sunday, or until 8 p.m. Monday at the Salvation Army Christmas Center, 1030 South Broadway in Lexington.
Ashcraft said she thinks continuing economic uncertainty is affecting Angel Tree giving and other Salvation Army programs this year.
"First of all, there's a greater need; we had about 500 more requests for the Angel Tree program this year than last," she said. "Many people are out of work or have had their work hours cut.
"I think it's that many of our donors are at a place now where it's difficult for them to do anything beyond meeting their own bills."
Ashcraft also said that donations at the Salvation Army's red kettles around Lexington are running about $32,000 behind projections.
The Salvation Army's Christmas programs also struggled last year, until news reports generated increased giving, she said.