COAL TOWNSHIP - Because of a greater-than-usual need, the Salvation Army will conduct an area-wide collection for "specific" food items this year to help local families enjoy a Christmas dinner.

Brian Persing and Chris Venna, board members for the local chapter and project coordinators, said more than 600 needy families with more than 2,000 children from throughout the Shamokin, Mount Carmel and surrounding areas have requested assistance with food and toys.

"Our pantry shelves are low and we don't want to see any kid go hungry on Christmas, or go without presents," Persing said.

That's what prompted the idea for the special drive.

Specific items needed are instant potatoes, boxed stuffing, cranberries, sweet potatoes, gravy, cake mixes and frosting, hams, turkeys, chickens, pasta and sauce.

Starts Monday

The drive starts Monday and will continue through Dec. 10. Dropoff locations are Shamokin Police station at 511 N. Franklin St., Rob's Good Time Grille, Market and Spruce streets, Shamokin; James Pizza, 524 E. Pine St., Shamokin (from 6 p.m. to midnight Wednesday through Sunday), Mountain View: A Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Trevorton Road, and Northwestern Academy, Route 61, Coal Township.

In addition, Lincoln Towers High Rise and Coal Township High Rise are participating.

Persing emphasizes that any area business, or a family or individual from Shamokin to Catawissa, can put a box together and he'll be glad to pick up the items. Persing can be reached on his cell phone at 847-2479. He said all monetary or food donations will definitely stay in the area.

Monetary donations are also being accepted and can be sent to the Salvation Army, 1300 W. Spruce St., Coal Township 17866. Persing said $19.95 will feed five people, $23.94 will feed six people and $39.90 will feed 10 people.

Schools participating

Venna is coordinating efforts through local school districts and is happy to announce that Shamokin Area, Mount Carmel Area and Southern Columbia Area School Districts are participating.

In fact, Shamokin Area Middle-High and Elementary schools are having a competition throughout homerooms. Rooms that bring in the most items will be awarded a pizza party. Boxes will be placed in the schools marked for specific items.

Anyone with questions concerning the efforts at the three participating school districts may reach Venna at 205-1144.

More demand

Maj. Tina Streck, commanding officer of the Salvation Army, and Judy Orner, director of social services, said many first-time applicants are seeking Christmas help, along with many larger families. Maj. Streck said Persing and Venna's efforts with the specific items will go a long way to fill the requests this Christmas season.

Also, they encourage individuals or businesses to take one or more Angel tags from the tree at Wal-Mart. Also, people can adopt a family by contacting the Salvation Army at 644-0486 during business hours.

Energy Liquidators, Route 61, Shamokin, will donate one Paper Jamz Guitar for every one donated by a generous bidder. Persing said this means someone's $10 gift will supply two Paper Jamz Guitars to be used as gifts for needy children, a $78 value.

He is pleased with the cooperation in putting together this special project.

"With this area-wide drive, we can put smiles on a lot of faces," he said.