WEIRTON - Weirton Wal-Mart and The Salvation Army of Weirton are teaming up to "Fill the Truck" with Christmas gifts for children in need in Brooke and Hancock counties.
Community residents are encouraged to visit and help "Fill the Truck" from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Wal-Mart parking lot located at 400 Three Springs Drive.
New, unwrapped toys appropriate for boys and girls from birth to age 12 will be accepted. Children's coats for toddlers through high school age also can be dropped off. The Salvation Army also will collect nonperishable foods. All items collected will stay in Brooke and Hancock counties.
"We are seeing a 15 percent increase in need over last year," said Maj. Sue Dewan of The Salvation Army. "Last year, we assisted 400 families, and we already have 480 registered this year. It's a dramatic increase, and we need to produce more toys than the previous year."
The toy drive is part of a nationwide toy drive taking place on weekends across the country through Dec. 15 at 1,600 Wal-Mart stores. The nationwide toy drive will bring toys to children across the country.
"This is something Wal-Mart has been doing, but they are expanding the program," Dewan said. "We are hoping to stuff the truck full of stuff."
The Salvation Army of Weirton also has been seeing an uptick in requests at its food pantry.
"On a normal basis, we serve 40 to 45 families through our food pantry each month, but recently, we're seeing 80 in a month," Dewan said. "People are coming to the end of their unemployment benefits - they're not finding work, a lot of people are unemployed."
In addition to the "Fill the Truck" event, collection bins will be available inside the store, where new, unwrapped toys and children's coats can be dropped off until Dec. 15. Dewan asked, if possible, those making donations leave the items in the shopping bag with the receipt. All bags and receipts will be removed before distribution.
"We're used to thinking about our own families and friends, and we sometimes forget there are people in our community who aren't able to provide that for their families," said Dewan. "Some of these people are your neighbors. This area is very community-minded. Children don't always understand why they see their friends with things they don't receive and it's very disappointing for parents to be unable to do that for their children."
Wal-Mart also is hosting Salvation Army bell-ringers and their red kettles until Dec. 24. The Red Kettle Campaign goes toward feeding the hungry in the community. The Wal-Mart Foundation donated $1 million to the national campaign.
The "Fill the Truck" toy drive is part of Wal-Mart's more than 40-year partnership with The Salvation Army. In 2012, nearly 150,000 toys and coats were donated nationwide through "Fill the Truck."