The Salvation Army is already reporting a significant increase in toy and gift requests for children throughout the state.

With its Angel Tree program, these gifts may be the only ones some kids receive this holiday season. It's super easy to take part in, too.

The Salvation Army provides Christmas trees to companies that request them with gift tags on them with a toy requested for a boy a girl. Employees and customers simply go to a store, purchase the toy on the tag, return it to the store, and the Salvation Army will pick up the goodies and distribute them to children in need.

Lt. Alan Porchetti, corps officer of the Salvation Army in Trenton said numbers last year regarding the "Angel Tree" program have risen 50%. This year, the Salvation Army is serving about 1,200 children so there is a big need for donations.

The iconic fundraising red kettles and bell ringers will also be back on street corners and in front of stores across the state, allowing for more opportunities for people to donate.

Porchetti said red kettles will be set up in front of most big department chain stores across the state including Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Shop Rite, Macy's, and JC Penney.

The bell ringers will be out during the cold winter weather hoping the generous people of New Jersey will throw a few coins or bucks into the kettles to help the Salvation Army continue its programs and provide necessary resources to those in need.

An estimated 2 million people in New Jersey are food insecure and one in five children live in poverty, according to the Salvation Army.

Porchetti said some of the programs that rely on these red kettle donations include music lessons for children in Trenton. He said there is a music school where guitar, brass, piano, drums, and dance are taught to the kids.

There is also a food pantry where the Salvation Army serves about 250 families every month and a mom's group where moms get together. There is also a Canteen Ministry. Porchetti said the food truck goes out to the community every Friday and serves about 300 meals. Last but not least, donations received will go towards utility and rental assistance. Many New Jerseyans don't know how they will pay their rent or keep the heat and electricity on, and many are living paycheck to paycheck.

About 250 frozen turkeys have been collected for 250 families in Trenton who will now be able to enjoy a nice Thanksgiving dinner, he said.

In New Jersey's capital city, the Salvation Army is looking to raise $120,000 by Christmas Eve, Porchetti said.

"The Salvation Army remains on the frontline of needs. There was a need before the pandemic. Then the pandemic hit. Then Hurricane Ida hit. People that were in need are even in more need. The Salvation Army was here before then, was here during the pandemic and during the hurricane and we are still here. We're here to serve our community without discrimination," Porchetti said.

He is encouraging people to donate to the Salvation Army. Anything helps. Even a dollar can change the future of one person, he added.

The website to donate is www.salarmy.us/trentonredkettle.

The Salvation Army needs donations, volunteers, and toys for children to not just get them through the holiday, but to bring security, sustenance, and joy to all in need.

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