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Thousands find Christmas help at Salvation Army's annual Christmas Bureau

Ellen Abbott/WRVO
Families choose books during the Salvation Army's Christmas Bureau distribution

Almost three-thousand Central New York families found some Christmas help at the Annual Salvation Army Christmas Bureau in Syracuse Thursday.  That's 400 more families than needed help last year, a nearly 15% increase. 

Salvation Army Executive Director Linda Wright expected it.

“Our food pantry at the Salvation Army, and because we’re a food pantry that’s open 5 days a week full time, we’ve seen a 43% increase in our food pantry service alone,” said Wright. “So, that 14 for families at Christmas Bureau isn’t a surprise for us.”

Wright says that nearly half of the people that showed up to the Christmas Bureau this year were new. One of those people, Kelly, was a volunteer at the Christmas Bureau last year. She now finds herself on the other side.

“This is the first year I’ve ever done this,” she said. “Usually I’m on the other end serving hot chocolate. We had another baby and my husband was in a union and he lost his job. We had to move in with the parents.”

Wright says those who were new to the Christmas Bureau have a tougher time than those who keep coming back.

“I find, in talking with those families where this issue around unemployment and making it work and seeing such a huge impact, they don’t know what it feels like to manage,” she said. “Historically, families who struggle and have always been lower income, they have had more tools in their tool box in dealing with dealing with day to day poverty.”

At the giveaway, families receive a book, toy and stocking stuffers for each child, plus a food basket that includes the makings of a holiday meal.  The food basket is also filled with pantry items and fresh fruits and vegetables that'll help families feed their children over the holiday break.  Families that receive the help must meet minimum income guidelines and sign up before the event.


Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.