Now in its 48th year, the Christmas Basket campaign may be more important than ever.
The annual campaign, sponsored by InsideNoVa, benefits the Prince William Corps of the Salvation Army, which has been inundated with requests for need this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many activities stopped in the community, but they did not stop with us, as we have been busier than ever here in Virginia as well as across the USA,” said Maj. Kelly Durant, who along with his wife, Maj. Regina Durant, serves as commander of the Prince William Corps.
Former Potomac News publisher Paul Muse created the Christmas Basket drive in 1972. The Potomac News later merged with the Manassas Journal Messenger, and after the combined newspaper closed in 2012, InsideNoVa decided to continue the Christmas Basket tradition.
“We are fortunate to live in one of the wealthiest communities in the country, but the needs across our community are immense,” said Bruce Potter, publisher of InsideNoVa. “We’re delighted to be able to continue to support the local corps of the Salvation Army in their efforts to meet those needs, and we thank all our readers who contribute every year.”
The goal for this year’s campaign is $10,000. Donations must be received by Dec. 31.
The Durants noted that requests for assistance with food, rent or utility payments have more than doubled this year to 4,210 individuals. The actual amount of funding provided has increased to $89,000 from $42,000 a year ago due to some increased grant funding.
“This means we were able to serve 53 more cases to prevent evictions or a loss of power,” Kelly Durant said.
The Durants served hot food off the Salvation Army’s canteen feeding truck since the beginning of the pandemic in March until July, providing 200 hot meals daily in neighborhoods.
“My wife and I, and our staff and volunteers, have worked every day preparing more boxes of food than ever before for those unemployed due to COVID-19,” Kelly Durant added.
The corps also hopes to fulfill over 1,200 requests this holiday season for presents through its “Angel Tree” program for disadvantaged children under age 12. That would be 100 more than were provided in 2019.
“Please adopt an extra ‘Angel’ this year as more families in need are out there and we are low on donors,” Kelly Durant said. To adopt an angel, contact the Prince William Corps office, or pick one up from any Wal-mart or Sam’s Club store.
The Salvation Army is known for its ubiquitous red kettles and bell-ringers during the holiday season, but due to the pandemic it cannot rely on contributions through the kettles as much as it could in previous years.
In addition, Kelly Durant said, the corps needs more volunteers to serve as bell-ringers. He urged anyone who is interested to visit www.registertoring.com to sign up for a specific location and time.
The Durants were transferred to the Prince William Corps from Winchester earlier this year. Before that, they served eight years in Hialeah, Fla., where they attended to the needs of that immigrant community. The Durants are fluent in Spanish and Portuguese as well as American Sign Language.