Christmas Bureau opens applications for families to get holiday assistance

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 21, 2021

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Christmas Bureau is now accepting applications for local assistance programs.

The program is coordinated by Rowan County United Way. Families apply to receive assistance from Salvation Army’s Angel Tree, Project Santa in Denton or the Post’s Christmas Happiness fund.

Rowan County United Way Executive Director Jenny Lee said the program usually serves more than 300 families. Counting individual children, the program serves about 1,000 through a combination of the programs.

During intake, Lee said families’ income versus expenses are considered. Those who qualify for government assistance are automatically qualified for some assistance.

“The big thing too is having birth certificates,” Lee said. “We have to be able to prove that you are the parent or the legal guardian of the child or children.”

Starting last year, the process moved all online, and that has continued this year. During prior years, the application process was a big to-do at the J.F. Hurley YMCA where families filed in to apply in-person with staff and volunteers. The COVID-19 pandemic changed that.

Lee said the process effectiveness and barriers need to be considered, but a number of people who are being served has been steady despite the change.

“What that tells us is people are still able to access the service,” Lee said.

Intake for the program is also a good time to connect people with other services they may benefit from and the Salvation Army provides other charitable services like rent and utility assistance, food and clothing.

There were volunteers at the local Salvation Army location helping people apply when the applications opened on Wednesday.

Rowan County Salvation Army Capt. Karl Dahlin said theres are pros and cons to the online process. He noted there were wait times when applications were completed in person. The bureau tried to offset that by providing activities for kids. The online version lets people get their paperwork in order as they are able, but the quality of the information is not as good when compared to seeing people in person.

Dahlin said he sees value in the in-person process. There is a personal connection seeing people from previous years and checking in on them.

“You get to chat and learn about people a little bit more than when they’re just names on the computer screen,” Dahlin said,

When people come pick up gifts, even though it is done through drive-thru with masks, they still get some of that connection.

“We get to see them and ask them for prayer requests,” Dahlin said. “We’ve got some videos of some folks that desperately wanted to give us a hug.”

People can apply for assistance online via The website also has guides for the application.

The program is still looking for volunteers, especially those who are bilingual. If you are interested in helping the program, Rowan County United Way can be reached at 704-633-1802.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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