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Salvation Army makes holidays brighter for needy families

Published On: Dec 24 2013 07:48:15 PM CST   Updated On: Dec 17 2013 10:25:26 PM CST

The Salvation Army is trying to make sure children whose parents are not able to buy Christmas presents this year have gifts under the tree. WSBT's Rachel Lake reports from University Park Mall.

It's easy this time of year to get wrapped up in buying presents and hosting Christmas dinners and forget those less fortunate, but the Salvation Army in South Bend is making a difference this holiday season.

The Salvation Army signed 800 kids up for the Angel Tree program. One mother who's participating in a similar program says she doesn't know how she'd put presents under the Christmas tree without it.

Valerie Jefferson's children can hardly wait to open their presents.

"I'm probably gonna let them open their Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve because they're so excited," she said.

The Jeffersons are part of the Salvation Army's "Adopt a Family" program. All these presents were donated by someone in the community.

"There's nothing that they didn't give me that I didn't want, they gave me everything and more," Valerie said.

Valerie is pregnant with her sixth child and says it would have been difficult to afford all these gifts.

"The economy is hard," she said. "And there's help out there, there's no such thing as being ashamed of being a single mother because I'm a single mom, I love being a single mom. It gives me hope that there's people out there like the Kroc Center, like the Salvation Army, the people that adopted me."

Libby Unruh works for the Salvation Army. She helped kick off the brand new Angel Tree program this year, which focuses more on providing for the basic needs of children such as clothing.

Unruh says just over a thousand families signed up for Christmas assistance this year.

"As far as the need, I think the need is pretty plateaued," Unruh said. "It's just meeting that need this year has been more difficult."

But donors came through for the Jeffersons.

"And the Adopt a Family allowed me to have a very Merry Christmas with my children so that we can be happy and joyous and doesn't have to worry about what we couldn't have or couldn't get," Valerie said.

All of the angels at University Park Mall have been adopted out, but the Salvation Army says there are still 130 kids without donors.

It's not too late to help, you can pick up an angel tag at the Kroc Center and drop off the donation there by 4pm Thursday.