Need for services in Missoula rises at Christmas


MISSOULA, Mont. - The Salvation Army expects to help more than 600 Missoula County families this holiday season as the need for services continues to rise.

Christmas has always been a favorite time of year for Missoula mother and grandmother Rebecca Elliott.

"We put up a tree. I have a whole bunch of ceramics I put up," said Elliott.

Elliott loves to keep special family memories in scrapbooks. Last year she thought her Christmas memories would not include gifts.

"My mom had been helping us with bills. I wasn't working. My husband had lost his job. There was just no income," said Elliot.

But Elliott's family became one of about 600 the Missoula Salvation Army helped last Christmas.

"Until we found out we were getting help from the Salvation Army there wasn't going to be anything under the tree. I think I spent $2 on Christmas last year. That was all we had," said Elliott.

Directors in Missoula say the Salvation Army serves one in eight Missoulians, and that need is growing.

"It's a huge need. Really, every child deserves a Merry Christmas. Some parents can't afford that, or they don't have the means. It could be other circumstances that are going on in their life like health issues or a job loss," said Lt. Joshua Hamilton.

We asked what the income cut off is to qualify. Hamilton said the guidelines say 150% of the poverty line. That's a bit over $23,000 a year for a family of two. However, Hamilton says the Salvation Army rarely turns anybody away, even if he or she makes a little more. "A huge number of people come through our doors every year needing help. It's really sad there's that many people needing help, but we want to step in and fill those needs," said Hamilton.

The donations brought a special joy into Elliott's home.

"I love wrapping gifts -- being able to wrap them and put them under the tree, and waiting for their reactions, seeing how excited they are," said Elliott.

The Salvation Army expects to serve more than 600 families this season.

Last year bell ringing brought in $60,000. The Salvation Army hopes the amount will go up this year.

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