Published: Dec 09, 2010 1:23 AM EST
Updated: Dec 08, 2010 6:31 PM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - The Salvation Army of Lee, Hendry and Glades counties is gearing up for another big Christmas season.

The non-profit organization expects to help feed and give toys to 5,000 area families this holiday.  Officials say 54% of those needing help this year are newcomers, victims of the down economy.

Wednesday, more than 150 volunteers gathered at a donated warehouse to begin packaging food and toys for those less fortunate. 

"We just want to help as many people as we can this holiday season," Salvation Army Major Julie Louden told WINK News.

The Army's annual Christmas Cheer distribution begins next week for families who signed up for assistance.  Volunteers are still needed to help give away the food and toys.

If you'd like to volunteer, call 278-1551 to sign up.  Bell ringers are also needed as part of the Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign.

Last year, the Christmas Cheer distribution provided food to more than 20,000 area individuals.  Toys were distributed to an estimated 10,000 children.  Those numbers are expected to go up this year.