October flew by, and with the weather feeling more winter-like, it’s a good time to look back at the the past few weeks and see how The Salvation Army and has been “doing the most good,” both at home in Indiana and in the storm ravaged south.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, The Salvation Army Indiana Division was called upon to deploy specially-trained Emergency Disaster Services personnel and volunteers to help with recovery and relief efforts in Texas. Some Salvation Army officers, like Major Jamie Pennington of New Albany and Major Dan Sawka of Indianapolis, were deployed as part of the Emotional & Spiritual Care teams. They traveled with the mobile feeding units that delivered food and water to isolated neighborhoods, where families were facing the complete loss of everything they owned, from furniture and clothing to family photos and treasured heirlooms. In addition to providing much needed sustenance, the majors comforted the people they met, praying with them and offering a listening ear or shoulder on which to cry.

The Salvation Army continues to serve the devastated communities in south Texas, as well as the states hit by Hurricane Irma. Just a few days ago, another Indiana officer, Captain Scott Strissel, left for Puerto Rico to assist with the recovery efforts in progress after Hurricane Maria wiped out the power grid and water systems across the entire island. In the coming months, The Salvation Army will continue to send officers, volunteers, and staff on multi-week deployments in areas affected by Harvey, Irma, and Maria. It is estimated that it will take several years to fully recover from this trio of disasters, but The Salvation Army will continue to work with communities for as long as it takes.

Back in Indiana, Hoosiers were hard at work helping The Salvation Army pull off the 31st Annual Coats for Kids. In partnership with WTHR and Tuchman Cleaners, this program collects new and gently used coats and distributes them to children in need in the community. Several organizations helped to make sure that there were enough coats, hats, and gloves this year, including Team Heroes from the Heroes Foundation, Upland Brewery, the Indianapolis Colts, Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the Mitzvah Stitchers, the Wolfe Foundation, Two Men and a Truck, and many others.

Volunteers spent a week sorting coats and setting up for the big Coats for Kids distribution on October 21. With the help of students from Christ the King Catholic School and volunteers from companies and organizations like Salesforce, Altrusa, and Degree of Honor, more than 5,000 coats were processed and ready for the shopping floor. Hundreds of central Indiana families depend on Coats for Kids to help them keep their children warm through the cold winter months, so its no surprise that the line on distribution day began to form hours before the doors opened. By the end of the day, 2,686 coats were handed out and, thanks to a generous donation from the Murphy family, each child was able to choose a pair of gloves and a warm hat to complete their cold weather ensemble. The remaining coats were given primarily to local school systems to ensure that any child who entered their schools unprepared for cold weather could be sent home with a coat.

October is also the month that The Salvation Army, along with our friends at CBS4, looks to help struggling parents make Christmas special for their children. Indiana’s poverty rate is 14.5%, but that number rises to 20.5% for Hoosier children. This means that one out every five children in the state lives in a household where just putting food on the table is a daily struggle. The Angel Tree program is designed to help parents avoid the tough decision of whether to pay a utility bill or put a gift under the tree. During the last two weeks of October, these parents are able to visit our two Indianapolis corps community centers, located in the Eagle Creek and Fountain Square neighborhoods, and sign their children up for Angel Tree.

The idea is simple: Information is collected about each child, including their age, clothing size, and shoe size. Added to this is a list of needs particular to that child, items like diapers, tennis shoes, school uniforms, formula, or blue jeans. Then the parent provides a list of wants, like toys, books, or puzzles that reflect their son or daughter’s interests. This information is printed on an Angel tag and hung on special Angel Trees in November and December at Castleton Square Mall, Greenwood Park Mall, and the Indiana History Center in downtown Indy. Shoppers choose an Angel from the tree and fill a provided bag with items chosen especially for their adopted Angel. The bag is returned to an Angel Tree site and in December families receive these special gifts just in time for Christmas. It’s a magical feeling for all involved – the volunteers, the donors, the parents, and the children.

This is also the time of year that hundreds of volunteers flock to RegisterToRing.com to sign up to ring a bell for The Salvation Army during November and December. The annual Red Kettle Christmas Campaign is an intense 6-week fundraiser that we depend upon to provide quality programs and much-needed services 365 days a year. School groups, fraternities and sororities, service organizations, and businesses have been “claiming their kettles” all month long as a way to give back to their community. We also welcome individuals and families who would like to spend a couple of hours volunteering this Christmas season. Just visit RegisterToRing.com and choose the location, date, and time that works for you. It’s that simple! When bell ringing kicks off later this month, we’ll need hundreds of volunteers to keep the kettles out and raise the money needed to keep programs going in 2018.

As we look forward to November and the beginning of our Red Kettle Christmas Campaign, we want to take a moment to thank all the volunteers, donors, and community partners that made October such an impactful month. Whether you donated to help with hurricane relief, collected Coats outside Lucas Oil Stadium, or helped families sign up for Angel Tree, please know that we cannot do what we do without your support. Thank you for opening your hearts to people in need!