ALPENA - With Christmas over and the new year arrived, some may forget about charities in their community even as the need continues.
Salvation Army of Alpena County provides emergency financial assistance to families all year long, Major Craig Stoker said. A broken-down furnace, a death in the family, a hospital stay with no health insurance to cover it - these can all cause a huge strain on families already struggling to get by.
"Those emergencies don't just happen on holidays, they can happen all year," he said. "We can only help as many people as we have resources to help."
A lot of those resources come in around Christmas, Stoker said. Once the holidays are over, the bell ringers are gone and family Christmas assistance programs are finished for the year. With the drop-off in activity and visibility, people tend to forget their donations are still needed. The same is true for many charities.
The Salvation Army helps a significant number of families having a financial emergency with their heating costs, a major expense in Northeast Michigan, Stoker said. It's been an especially cold December, making that assistance even more important.
People can also get help with their rent year-round, Stoker said. Like the heating assistance program, this one is meant for people having financial emergencies.
"When these families are living on minimum wage or less, things you don't even think about really hurts them," he said.
The easiest way for people to help is by donating money, Stoker said. The Salvation Army can use the funds to buy food, and for its rent and heating assistance programs. Oftentimes the organization can make arrangements with a landlord or utility company.
Donations of non-perishable food items are helpful throughout the year as well, both for the Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul, Stoker said. Thunder Bay Junior High School donated around 2,000 canned goods the Salvation Army used in its Christmas baskets.
"It would be neat if someone could do that in the spring, summer or fall," he said. "They could put on a canned goods drive, call us and we'll come and pick it up and put it in our pantry."
Those who are short on funds can volunteer, Stoker said. The Salvation Army's food pantry needs help all year, and those who call 358-2769 can find out other ways to help. The winter coat give-away is a good time to volunteer, and the need for children's coats, hats and gloves goes beyond Christmas as well.
Stoker said he's grateful to everyone who helped over Christmas. The Salvation Army strives to help those having an emergency, and if it can't help it'll try to find another agency or organization that can.
"There's always people that face emergency situations, and the more we get, the more we can help people," he said.