IMMOKALEE, Fla.-- Every year, parents line up to get their hands on the hottest holiday toys. But Monday in Collier County, dozens stood in line just to make sure their kids would have at least one simple gift on Christmas morning.
Their children might want toys, but the adults have a very specific holiday wish list.
"What is more needed is jobs around here," said Nora Rivas, a mother of three who is currently out of work.
The Salvation Army of Collier County doesn't have jobs to give out, but it is offering holiday help for families in need in the form of food and gifts.
"A normal thanksgiving dinner," explained Salvation Army Lt. Michael Minney. "Then a Christmas dinner and toys for the kids."
Thanks to the Salvation Army's annual Christmas Cheer Program, 8-month-old Elsie's first Christmas will be special.
"I'm kind of hoping that they can give a better Christmas for my kids," said Rivas.
Tammy Vasquez wants the same thing for her new grandson Ethan. His mother, Tammy's daughter, is unemployed. Tammy only found work recently.
"It's ben very hard, cause there's no jobs," Tammy said. "And it's just part time."
Last year dozens of out-of-work people signed-up for the Christmas Cheer Program. The Salvation Army in Collier County helped 1,700 families, and it expects to meet an even greater need this year.
"Everyone is hurting," said Lt. Minney. "The economy is bad. People are out of work. They need the help."
The Salvation Army of Collier County will host another sign-up event Tuesday from 10 to 3 at its Immokalee office. It will also host a registration event in Naples next week.
The Salvation Army of Lee, Hendry and Glades Counties is expecting a record number of people to apply for help this holiday season. The first day applications will be taken is Wednesday October 26th beginning at 9 a.m.
Last year, people began lining up as early as 3 a.m. to wait in line. By the time doors opened the line stretched around the block. Over 55% of those that asked for help last year had never asked for help before. That figure is up from 2009. Due to the economic situation in southwest Florida, even more people are expected this year.
In 2010 The Salvation Army served a total of nearly 18,000 individuals, including more than 5,000 families though its Christmas Cheer program. Nearly 640 families signed up on the first day alone.
Below is the complete list of dates and times:
October 26, 27 & 28; 9 a.m.-Noon
November 3 (morning & evening); 9 a.m.-Noon/5 p.m.-8 p.m.
November 4; 9 a.m.-Noon
November 12 (Saturday); 9 a.m.-Noon
November 21; 9 a.m.-Noon
The Salvation Army
10291 McGregor Blvd.
Fort Myers, FL 33919
Applications will not be taken without the following items:
Adults: a) Valid Florida Driver's License or Lee County Picture I.D. AND b) Social Security Card
Children: a) Social Security Cards OR b) Birth Certificates for Each Child
Proof of: a) Income AND b) Benefits
Christmas Cheer is a community wide effort and is The Salvation Army's largest outreach event each year.
The Christmas Cheer program is funded by donations raised during The Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign which begins in mid November. For registration information, or to volunteer to assist with applications or holiday bell ringing, contact The Salvation Army's offices at (239) 278-1551.