COAL TOWNSHIP - Almost 600 needy families were assisted with food, clothing and toys during the 2013 Christmas season, members of the Salvation Army Advisory Board were informed during a board meeting earlier this week at the army headquarters, 1300 W. Spruce St.

In addition to the report on holiday activities, Maj. Tina Streck, commanding officer, reported the Salvation Army is 100 years old in the area as of February and hopes are to participate in the parade for Shamokin's 150th year celebration this July.

Also, there was a report on the success of the army's thrift store in downtown Shamokin and plans for expansion of the 11th Annual Salvation Army Adult Benefit Basketball Tournament to include a women's bracket.

Of 579 families helped over the holidays, 2,153 individuals were assisted, 1,257 of whom were children. Judy Orner, social services director for the Salvation Army, added that 4,992 toys were distributed along with 624 articles of clothing.

Orner said clients were served from Shamokin, Coal Township, Ranshaw, Kulpmont, Marion Heights, Strong, Atlas, Locust Gap, Mount Carmel, Wilburton, Elysburg, Catawissa, Trevorton, Leck Kill, Gowen City, Paxinos and Dornsife.

Orner emphasized the need for assistance has not slowed after the holidays. She said her report for January of this year shows 136 food orders filled, assisting five single women, eight single men, 126 families and 488 individuals.

She said during January, there were nine clothing vouchers given, one rental assistance and 36 oil deliveries. About $6,000 was spent on oil assistance, and requests are still coming. However, Streck said the fuel fund is depleted for the season. Streck commended Bloom Heating of Tharptown for helping facilitate the heating distribution.

Orner added there were 87 referrals and 269 interviews during January.

Orner said leftover gloves, hats and scarves were distributed to elementary students in the Shamokin-Coal Township area.

Henry Linton, board president, after hearing Orner's report on the mass distribution of assistance, noted "that's the strong point" of the Salvation Army.

Ned Sodrick, board member, assisted at the distribution of Christmas food and baskets, and agreed with Orner that the one-day project with almost 600 families was very smooth.

"There were very few snags," Orner remarked.

Orner went on to say the food pantry is currently "very low."

Bill Bowers, manager of the thrift store, attended and gave a report on improvements at the store. Bowers said display racks were changed from circular tables to long, straight pipe racks which allows for almost three times as much clothing to be displayed.

Bowers, who was commended by Linton for a "good job" managing the store, said he hopes to have the store start participating in community events held in the business district. The thrift store is in its ninth year in Shamokin.

Bowers also noted that many out-of-town residents visit the store because they feel they get the best prices on clothing items.

Streck also commended Bowers for his improvements at the thrift store and said there would be "no social works available without the thrift store."

Chris Venna, Shamokin Area Middle-HIgh School principal, and Brian Persing, former Shamokin Area School Board member, both members of the Salvation Army Advisory Board and co-chairmen of the adult benefit basketball tournament, gave a report on this year's three-day event scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 11, 12 and 13, at the high school gym.

They said this year, in addition to the men's division, they hope to branch out and include a women's bracket.

Also, they said they hope to pay PIAA officials this year for working the tourney games and are looking for businesses or individuals to become sponsors at a cost of $100 to help pay officials who have donated their services for the last 10 years.

Persing said a banner will be made with the names of sponsors and hung in the gym during the tournament.

Also, Persing said donations are being sought for the concession stand. Anyone wishing to contribute items or serve as a sponsor can contact him at 570-847-2479.

The tournament will continue to operate in the same double-elimination format with an entry fee of $125. Deadline to enter is March 31. Interested teams should contact Venna at 570-205-1144 for more information.

Orner reported the army will be selling peanut butter and coconut Easter eggs, and are looking for donations of coconut, condensed milk, margarine, 10x sugar, marshmallow creme and milk chocolate (for coating). Orders can be placed by calling 570-644-0486.

Those attending the meeting in addition to Streck, Orner, Linton, Sodrick, Bowers, Persing and Venna, were Bill Richie, Jack Murdock, Paul Metrocavage and Gerry Knapp.

The next meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 20.