Salvation Army Family Services Coordinator Chad Buchanan loaded a sack of toys at a Pearl City warehouse yesterday that is intended for needy children during the holidays .

Generosity drought

A donation shortage is
hitting charity programs

Anonymous family plays angel

By Rosemarie Bernardo

With just a week before Christmas, toy donations for Hawaii's needy children are well below expectations, according to the Salvation Army in Hawaii.

"Donations are so far down, it's really astonishing," said Chad Buchanan, the family services coordinator of the Salvation Army. "We are behind. ... It's universal with all the holiday programs right now."

Programs such as Toys for Tots, the Angel Tree and Lokahi Adopt-A-Family are experiencing a shortage of donations from toys to basic necessities such as bedding and clothing.

The toy shortage is of special concern for Buchanan.

"The kids get their hearts broken a lot easier than adults," he said.

As of yesterday, Toys for Tots had collected about 24,000 toys for 23,000 children, Buchanan said. Last year, 65,000 toys were collected and given to 33,000 children.

Buchanan hopes to collect 60,000 toys for this year's holiday season so each child can receive at least two toys through Toys for Tots. The Salvation Army helps the Marine Corps with toy deliveries and collection drives.

Salvation Army volunteer Kevin Manuel, left, and Family Service Coordinator Chad Buchanan filled boxes of donated food yesterday at a Pearl City warehouse. Despite appearances, assistance programs are experiencing donation shortages.

Salvation Army spokesman Daniel de Castro said many Hawaii residents are still suffering from the post-Sept. 11 economic downturn. "There really are more families that are coming to us for help. ... Sadly, there won't be families that we can help because of the lack of donations.

"Some of the donors that we had last year are the ones we're trying to help this year."

Those interested in donating items for the Toys for Tots Program can drop off toys at the Salvation Army warehouse at the former Tony Honda dealership site at 98-051 Kamehameha Highway in Aiea. Volunteers will be collecting toys from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily until Saturday.

"We are still pretty optimistic," said Marine Corps spokeswoman Lt. Amy Mueller.

Salvation Army officials use the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' federal poverty guidelines to determine who is eligible for assistance through the holiday programs.

Officials make exceptions for families under trying circumstances such as a recent illness, unemployment or death in the family. Applications for the programs are accepted in November.

Through the assistance of social-service agencies, a family is placed with one of the three programs. Those seeking assistance are asked to bring a photo identification card, birth certificates and documents to verify their family size, monthly income and home address.

"We try our best that each family who was helped by one program ... is not helped by another program so there is no double-dipping," Buchanan said.

Under the Angel Tree Program, donors can pick an angel tag from a Christmas tree at shopping malls in the state. The tags describe the person's age and gift desired. Donors have bought Christmas gifts for about 6,000 children and senior citizens.

About 1,000 more children and senior citizens still need assistance, de Castro said.

Last year, 5,000 out of about 7,000 children and senior citizens were assisted through the Angel Tree Program.

In the Adopt-A-Family Program, donors such as schools, businesses, churches, organizations and individuals adopt struggling families to assist during the holiday season.

Donors provide the selected family with a gift for each family member and a holiday meal.

About 372 out of 525 families are being assisted by donors through the Adopt-A-Family program.

Last year, 347 families applied for assistance through the program. All received assistance by donors, de Castro said.

"Time is real critical right now," he said.

Salvation Army Hawaii

E-mail to City Desk


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