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Salvation Army strives to bring hope during COVID-19 pandemic over holidays

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program and red kettles will look different this year.

BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. — Each year the Salvation Army strives to help families, especially around the holidays. 

But because of COVID-19, their Angel Tree program and red kettles will look different this year.

"We're seeing a lot more need than we have previously," said Captain Kati Chase with Salvation Army in Maryville. That need comes as the organization has had to reconstruct their biggest donation time of the year. 

"For the whole Knoxville region, our goal is $300,000 and for Blount County, our goal is $60,000," said Chase. 

She said year they're asking for less because they know a giant goal during the COVID-19 pandemic just isn't possible. 

"At the end of the summer, we saw an increased request for help in utilities and rent assistance," she said. "And in Blount specifically, seeing more need for emergency shelter."

Chase said they've also seen more need for holiday assistance. According to officials, the number of people they're assisting has increased by 50%.

Starting on Black Friday, red kettles will be at fewer locations than last year and mainly be out on the weekends, which means fewer days for donations. 

"We tried to work it out to help us meet the needs we have for the rest of the year," Chase said.

Angel Tree donations will also look different, officials said.

Blount county is still accepting in-person donations, but have also gone virtual like Knoxville and Sevier County donations. Officials said they have a registry with Walmart, where people can find out items they need specifically for Blount County. People can find more info here. 

Chase said the donations give hope and a feeling of love from the community. They're both priceless feelings, and they're also something needed by so many during this holiday season.

Anyone looking to give time can volunteer to participate as a bell ringer. You can sign up on their website here.