Working hand in hand

Salvation Army, Walmart partner to provide for needy children
Dec. 11, 2012 @ 12:38 AM

The Salvation Army teamed up with Walmart Saturday for a one-day experimental program to supply coats and toys to needy children in the area.

The program, Fill the Truck for Local Kids, consisted of Salvation Army representatives handing out fliers at the entrance of Walmart on the Parkway. The fliers urged shoppers to pick up a children's coat or toy while shopping, and then drop it off with The Salvation Army as they exited the store.

Bill Whisnant, chairman of the advisory council for The Salvation Army ministries in Sevier County, said the response was good on Saturday.

"This is the first year they've done this, but it's gone well," Whisnant said. "(The turnout) has been excellent. It's going to be interesting to see how it all works out."

Fill the Truck for Local Kids is a nation-wide program, but all clothing and toys gathered at the Sevierville Walmart will go to Sevier County children.

"The important thing is the toys stay in Sevier County," Whisnant said.

Along with Fill the Truck, The Salvation Army is currently accepting donations with its annual Red Kettle Campaign, where volunteers ring bells outside 18 area stores to encourage shoppers to drop donations into their red kettles.

The campaign, which began around Thanksgiving and will end Christmas Eve, is the organization's biggest fundraiser of the year, and has been since it was created 122 years ago.

Another holiday program The Salvation Army sponsors is the Angel Tree Program, where the organization identifies families in need and sets them up with sponsors to provide gifts, primarily clothes, for the angel of the family — a child of 12 years or younger.

Fill the Truck is designed to supplement the Angel Tree Program, Whisnant said. His wish is to provide sponsors for 750 angels this year.

"We would love for people to sponsor angels, and if they have two hours to spare, give us a call to ring some bells," Whisnant said. "Again, the money stays in the county."

rhargett@themountainpress.com