Look beyond the bright lights and see the need

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A child you know will not have a Christmas this year.

A single mom lost her job and cannot afford groceries.

A senior citizen down the street cannot afford to pay the WAPA bill.

A veteran is homeless and living in his car.

Look beyond the bright lights of the season and you will see hundreds of families in our islands that need our help.

While some areas of our economy are beginning to see development, there are still so many people who are just one paycheck away from losing everything. We are most grateful for the progress that is being made, but we must also remain vigilant in helping those who are living in the shadows of poverty.

It is hard to fathom the sheer numbers of those struggling until you see the faces of people in line at The Salvation Army seeking food or social services.

They stand with their heads hung low from loss of pride in having to ask for help while they look around with quiet desperation hoping someone will extend a hand to provide relief.

This is why The Salvation Army exists and why we ring bells throughout the Christmas season: to ensure we can meet their needs now and throughout the upcoming year.

Many see bell ringers as simply a Christmas fixture in our society and walk by trying not to make eye contact. Perhaps it is a tradition, and for some people the sound of The Salvation Army bells means Christmas is almost here, but the bells are actually a plea for help!

Our Salvation Army needs your help and support to ensure that hungry mouths are fed, the homeless have a safe place to sleep, that families are restored, and that people get the help they need to successfully get back on their feet.

Here are the facts. The calendar this year has provided less time for holiday fundraising because of a later than usual Thanksgiving, and The Salvation Army's previous top collection site for the Red Kettle campaign was not made available this year.

We were already more than $20,000 behind meeting last year's total before we rang our first bell on Nov. 18. Additionally, although certain groups such as the members of the Rotary Clubs in the territory have agreed to join the chorus of bell ringers, the students of Antilles School who held a food drive, and others in our island community who have donated their time and talents, the need is immense.

The Salvation Army needs each us to come together as a community. They need more volunteers. They need our donations.

Your donation counts.

Your volunteerism as we provide Christmas toys for over 250 needy children in the Virgin Islands counts.

Your ability to ring bells at a Red Kettle counts.

Your ability to host a food or toy drive counts.

Your ability to adopt a child from the Angel Tree counts.

The Salvation Army cannot meet the needs of our Virgin Islands community by itself and appreciates everyone that chooses to stand beside us. The Salvation Army is appreciative to its advisory boards for both St. Croix and St. Thomas, and our hundreds of local volunteers for their ongoing support.

The people of the Virgin Islands are one of the nation's most giving communities of its resources and volunteer time. We are so incredibly grateful and humbled by your support of The Salvation Army since The Salvation Army commenced operations in the Territory in 1917. Without your help we wouldn't be here today, but without the Virgin Islands and all local communities joining alongside The Salvation Army during this challenging time, we will struggle in the upcoming months to continue "Doing the Most Good" for the most people in the most need.

For all who seek assistance, The Salvation Army is a refuge of hope and when they leave us their eyes are alight with the sparkle of renewed optimism. This Christmas, we transfer our hope to you, the people of this great Territory, as The Salvation Army humbly seeks your assistance through the simple act of ringing a bell.

To learn more about how you can volunteer or get involved please call The Salvation Army on St. Croix at 626-0654 and on St. Thomas at 244-2704, donate at Post Office Box 742, Frederiksted, St. Croix, VI 00841 or Post Office Box 74, St. Thomas, VI 00804 or visit our website at http:// www.use.salvationarmy.org/use/www_use_vi.nsf/.

Thank you and may God bless you and your families with abundant joy, love and a Christ-filled Christmas.

- Attorney Tom Bolt is Chairman of The Salvation Army St. Thomas Corps Advisory Board.

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