Salvation Army struggles to raise funds as need for help reaches new levels

Car by car, people pulled up to the Contra Costa County Salvation Army headquarters in Concord Tuesday.

They came for food and holiday toys for their kids. Many are facing economic hardships they have never known before.

"People who thought they wouldn't be here are here now," said one resident.

One mother who visited the facility said her work hours are limited, so she came Tuesday to get help for the holidays. 

The Contra Costa Salvation Army chapter planned on feeding 550 families and distributing toys for about 1,400 kids.

Economic conditions were rough before the pandemic, mostly because of high housing costs.

"Since COVID has been going since March, we've been double the amount of food boxes as normal. The need for us is greater than ever," says Maj. Gwyn Edward Jones of the Salvation Army.

Because of COVID, the Salvation Army has set out only half the number of red kettles as usual to collect the donations that pay for events like this. The organization now relies more on online contributions.

"Our donations have gone down. It's made it harder than ever to really help all the families we can," said Jones.

Across the Bay in San Mateo, people were also coming to the non-profit Samaritan House for help. Samaritan House was celebrating the expansion of its children's clothing center. The overall need for help has about doubled since last year.

"What we're seeing is five times more demand across our county for financial assistance to help people pay rent than before COVID. We get as many calls in a day as we used to get in a whole week.," said director Bart Charlow.

But Samaritan House says it could get worse, once the California eviction moratorium runs out in January.

"It is going to be a tsunami of need. But it's already been one," said Charlow.

But for now, many are just trying to make it through the holidays. Even if it takes some help.

"At least my daughter doesn't feel hopeless because I can't give her what I want," said a mother.

For details on how to donate, visit the chapter's website.