By Jeff Fox

The community continues to reach out to help make sure everyone has a few things under the tree.

The Salvation Army, which runs the only homeless shelter in Eastern Jackson County, continues to get ready for its Christmas store this Friday. About 750 families have signed up, and parents go through and select gifts for their children.

“We’re still about ... 2,000 toys short for Friday,” Major Butch Frost said Monday. He added that the annual kettle drive at area stores is about $39,000 short of its goal.

The Salvation Army expects to provide toys for about 1,600 children.

“We’re in desperate need of toys and gift cards for teenagers,” Frost said.

Those who want to give toys, or money to buy toys, can come by the Crossroads facility at 14700 Truman Road, east of Noland Road. Or call 816-252-3200.

It’s a similar story at the Community Services League, where President and CEO Doug Cowan said no one has been turned away but fewer toys are available. Its Christmas store on Noland Road in Independence started last Friday and runs through this Thursday. Also, stores in Grain Valley, Oak Grove and in the Fairmount neighborhood in northwest Independence are this week.

“We did not turn away anybody that registered,” Cowan said.

Altogether, the agency expects to distribute about 7,000 toys, serving about 2,000 children in Independence, Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Oak Grove and Buckner.

In a tough economy, the need rises year to year, Cowan said.

“It’s a steady increase,” he said. “However, it’s probably not the rapid increase we saw years ago in the throes of the recession.”

Also this week in Grain Valley, organizers are getting ready for an annual tradition: delivering gift baskets to seniors. The baskets, with cheese, crackers, fruit and some gifts, go to about 650 people. Distribution is set for Saturday morning.

“We always need drivers,” said Police Chief Aaron Ambrose.

Those who want to help can show up around 8 a.m. Saturday behind Patricia’s grocery store, near the loading dock. The store is on Eagles Parkway just west of Main Street.