The Salvation Army wants to help families give their children a nice Christmas, said George Lenkner, the organization's spokesman.

"A lot of families that had to really cut back on their budget are paying necessary bills first rent and utilities," he said. "They're hoping (money) will be left over for toys for the children."

The Salvation Army is preparing for its annual Christmas Cheer Distribution and toy giveaway program, scheduled for Dec. 20 and 21. Registration is 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, Nov. 4. An evening registration session is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday.

At the same time, registering families can pick up free coats donated during a 2011 Coats for Kids Telethon done by WGAL-TV 8. The coats were cleaned by the Central Pennsylvania Dry Cleaners Association. Lenkner said there are about 2,000 coats available.

Families do not have to register for the Christmas distribution program in order to receive coats, Lenkner said.

The Salvation Army also is taking registration for its annual Angel Tree program. For the program, the organization gets names, genders and gift desires from children. The information, without the names, is put on paper angels that represent the children.

Then shoppers can select the angels from Christmas trees set up at local stores and purchase gifts for the youngsters. The toys will be given to families during the Christmas Cheer distribution,


when the agency also gives out food baskets, Lenkner said.

The agency annually serves about 2,000 families during the holiday season, he said. The Salvation Army is prepared to see more people who are underemployed because of the sluggish economy, Lenkner said

"We're seeing different people we've never seen before for assistance," he said. "For some, their unemployment (benefits) have run out and it's difficult for them to meet all their obligations."

-- Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at 505-5438 or