By Christi Campos

Empty toy barrels and near empty kettles are a reality right now at the Salvation Army of Independence on Truman Road. Although the Eastern Jackson community continues year after year to generously give in support of the social services the agency provides to families in need in our area, this Christmas the need is somehow greater than ever.

"We can come up with a variety of reasons why donations are down throughout the city, such as a late Thanksgiving and cold weather, but the reasons don’t really matter when the need is so urgent," says Major Butch Frost of the Independence Corps of the Salvation Army. "One of the biggest struggles for me is to have the knowledge of a child waking up without a gift on Christmas morning. My heart literally breaks at the thought of it." Among other needs, the Corps is short almost 4,000 toys for their Christmas distribution to families in need and distribution day is Dec. 20.

It becomes all too real when you hear the stories. Like the father of six who stopped along the side of the road to help a stranded motorist this past September and was hit by a drunken driver in the process. Now disabled from severe injuries, his family has been adopted this Christmas through The Salvation Army of Independence. Or the woman whose 20-year-old daughter and grandchildren were adopted for Christmas last year just days before her daughter died of a rare progressive cancer. This year, clutching a necklace displaying a fingerprint of her deceased daughter, the woman was herself signing up for Christmas assistance for not only her remaining younger children but for her two grandchildren she is now also raising.

Emergency Assistance worker, Jasmine Moffitt works directly with families needing assistance and hears these and many other stories of personal struggle. She says, "The need can seem overwhelming but the joy comes in seeing the look in the eyes of those who donate the gifts and those who receive them. When needs are met and love is shared, it just doesn’t get any better than that."

In addition to the many year-round social services The Salvation Army of Independence provides, such as GED classes, a food pantry and the always at capacity, Crossroads Family Homeless Shelter, the agency will assist over 200 families through adoption, provide 1,696 children with toys and distribute 1,072 boxes of food this Christmas.

The easily recognizable red kettles and bell ringers are how they support this work. But this year kettle giving is down citywide and is down some $37,000 from last year in Eastern Jackson County alone. This week an anonymous donor, hearing of the shortfall, offered the Divisional Headquarters a $300,000 match if donors throughout the city can meet it. To donate in Eastern Jackson County contact Christi Campos at 816-252-3200, ext. 105 or mail your gift to the Salvation Army of Independence, 14700 E. Truman Road, Independence MO 64050.

"It’s not too late to help with a cash, food or toy donation" says Major Lisa Frost who heads up the Christmas assistance efforts at the Independence Corps. "It can make such a difference! Sometimes it’s just taking a moment to give some encouraging words to those who are coming in for assistance. To let them know that people do care and that there is more to life than their current circumstances."