By Leah Sander
WARSAW — Like every organization, The Salvation Army locally has learned to adapt to deal with COVID-19 related challenges.
“We’ve had to shift our operation,” said Envoy Ken Locke, director of The Salvation Army for Kosciusko and Whitley counties. He noted communications have been more by phone and by email than in person.
Locke did say the organization’s office has not had to shut down since the pandemic started except for a few weeks back when some employees contracted COVID-19.
That did slow down the organization’s putting out Angel Trees for the year. The annual Christmas tradition involves people picking tags off trees set up at Walmart and elsewhere and buying gifts for the kids whose information is listed on them.
Locke said there are 200 kids in the area whose info is on the trees this year. People are asked to buy a hat, gloves, a book and a toy for each child.
The organization ensures those kids aren’t the same ones getting items from other similar efforts this time of year.
COVID-19 has also affected The Salvation Army’s other big Christmastime project: bell ringing.
Locke said he believes people are trying to minimize their contact with the public, which is why fewer people have signed up for bell ringing.
He said he really hopes to at least get slots filled for ringing on Fridays and Saturdays at Walmart and Kroger in Warsaw. The Warsaw slots are the ones most open.
Bell ringing is 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. People may schedule times to ring at www.registertoring.com by searching by local locations. In Kosciusko County, people also may ring in Syracuse and North Webster.
People are asked to wear a mask and winter gloves while ringing this year. They’re also asked to use hand sanitizer after finishing ringing. There won’t be aprons for bell ringers to wear to avoid transmitting germs.
The last day to ring is Christmas Eve.
Food and toiletries are also especially needed for the organization’s pantry, which people may get items from once a month.
Locke says he’s seen an uptick in the number of people stopping by for items this year. There were 240 families that got items last month.
The pantry could use toiletries like soap, shampoo and toilet paper as people cannot readily get those through other forms of assistance, said Locke.
The Salvation Army also accepts things like towels and socks for its Angel of Hope Pantry, which helps families after disasters like fires.
All items may be dropped off during the organization’s office hours of 9 a.m.-noon and 1-3 p.m. Monday-Friday. People should go to 501 E. Arthur St., Warsaw.
Despite challenges, the organization’s mission is the same.
“We try to meet human need without discrimination in the name of Jesus,” said Locke.