CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) Halloween is still several weeks away, but if you think you might need help with gifts or food this holiday season, you don’t have long to apply. The deadlines start as early as the end of October. Some people are used to the process, but this year many people are applying who have never needed help from charitable organizations before.  

“Christmas, last year, it was a struggle. We had a hard time taking care of things and being able to do Christmas. A friend of mine recommended to try Adopt a Family,” said Debby Rose, Charleston, WV.

The last few years have been full of challenges for Rose and her loved ones. While she’s normally the one giving to others, she found herself in a position where she needed help around the holidays. 

Debby Rose’s family celebrating Christmas in 2022 with the help of donors with the Adopt-a-Family program.

“Me and my husband talked about it because we are having hard times right now. In the past couple of years with him with breast cancer and raising two grade-school children of his family,” Debby Rose explained. 

They applied for help through the Union Mission’s Adopt-A-Family program which matches people in need with donors who buy gifts, clothing and household necessities.  Rose said the process of signing up wasn’t as intimidating as you might expect. 

“It was really easy for me to fill it out,” she said.  “They let me know that we did have a family that wanted to adopt us and make our Christmas.” 

With one in four West Virginia children now living in poverty, area charities are bracing for a busier than-usual holiday season. 

“We actually are expecting more because we know, because as the COVID food stamps have closed off and people have received that decrease and we know that prices this year, especially food prices, are sky high, I do expect that we will see more,” said Major Jayne May, with the Salvation Army in Charleston, WV.

Not only are they expecting the need to increase this year, but they are also seeing people who have never needed help before. 

“A lady sat down in front of me and said, ‘I’ve never had to do this’. She seemed a bit ashamed, and I said ‘Honey that is what we are here for. We are here to help everybody and if this year finds you a little tight come on down, don’t feel any shame, there’s no judgment here. We just want to make sure that children have Christmas, that’s what we are here for’,” May said. 

Major Jayne May hangs angels on a Christmas Tree at the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army is taking applications for the Angel Tree program. They moved online a few years ago. 

“You’ll need to be able to upload your photo ID, birth certificates for your children, proof of your residence and proof of your income. And then it also has the county code that you’ll need because we apply by county,” May explained. 

If that seems overwhelming or if you don’t have a device or enough service to apply online, they also have dates for people to apply in person.  Those dates are available on the Salvation Army’s Facebook page

This year for the first time the United Way of Central West Virginia is accepting Christmas Bureau applications online. They are still taking paper applications as well. 

“There is a huge, huge rise in the applications that we see daily,” said Kerri Cooper with the United Way of Central West Virginia. “You know every day when the mail comes in, we think oh man it is a big mail day and then the next day is a little bigger, so it has dramatically changed.”

As of this week, the United Way’s Christmas Bureau has received 539 toy applications online and 220 food applications online. That is combined with 1,000 paper applications. The United Way’s deadline for Christmas applications is November 5. The Salvation Army needs Angel Tree applications by October 27. Those deadlines come well before Christmas to give charities time to find enough donors. 

Donated toys on display at the Salvation Army.

“The need will always be there. I think that is the sad reality that we live in. It has just been increasingly worse especially since COVID. We have seen so much need erupt and it is hard. It is hard also to try to find the funds to fill those needs because even our greatest donors are also, all of these things are hitting their pockets as well,” May said. 

The Mountain Mission is also gearing up for a busy Christmas season. They expect to provide food baskets to as many as 1,000 families. The deadline to apply for a food basket through the Mountain Mission is December 1.  

This month Debby Rose is recalling what the gifts she received from donors through the Union Mission and what it meant to her and her family last Christmas morning. She said she is glad she stepped out of her comfort zone and asked for help when circumstances left her and her loved ones in a tough spot financially around the holidays. 

“Let me tell you they made our Christmas, and these kids were ecstatic,” Rose said.