Raleigh, N.C. — Raleigh mother Shediah Palmer never thought she would need help from the Salvation Army of Wake County.
In fact, until recently, the college graduate who worked a job in human resources was used to telling other people how they could get help in times of need.
Then her marriage fell apart. Soon after, she lost her well-paying job.
"Things really started to unravel," Palmer said. "I was holding on as best as I could."
Hoping for a happy ending to a difficult year, Palmer visited the Salvation Army recently hoping to get help providing Christmas gifts for her 3-year-old son Aiden.
"I'm used to telling people about how the help they can get as opposed to receiving the help," Palmer said. "You never know when it's going to be you that's on the other end, the receiving end of things."
Palmer's story is a familiar one for Paige Bagwell, the executive director for development at the Salvation Army of Wake County.
"It's the reality of how quickly times can change and how quickly their lives change and how quickly things can spiral out of control," she said. "They don't know where to turn."
Aiden Palmer is one of about 9,000 children the Salvation Army of Wake County hopes to help in 2012 with toys and clothes. Volunteers have been busy sorting toys and clothes in recent weeks, but the need is greater than ever.
The Salvation Army of Wake County still needs winter clothes for 1,600 children. As of Thursday, with its Christmas gift distribution event less than a week away, volunteers say they don't have enough to meet the need.
Haven Sink, the charity's director of public relations, said Tuesday that they are hoping for a miracle. Sink said that, this year, there are more than 8,700 children in the Salvation Army's local Angel Tree program – about 900 more than last year.
It's a similar challenge for the Durham Rescue Mission, which is in need of 12,000 new, unwrapped toys for its Annual Christmas Community Toy Giveaway.
"(Donations have) been less this year," the mission's chief executive officer, Rob Tart, said. "We've got probably a third of where we want to be.
WRAL's annual Coats for the Children drive benefits the Salvation Army. Last year, WRAL collected 9,000 coats and raised nearly $65,000 to buy new, warm winter clothing for children in need. In Wake County, 1,300 toys were donated. Since 1989, WRAL has collected nearly 134,000 coats and raised $1,224,800 to provide winter clothing for Salvation Army families. Donations are accepted online, via text message or in person until Dec. 31 at participating Jiffy Lube and First Citizens Bank locations.
On Friday, WRAL will air two special telethons – from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 7 to 8 p.m. and callers who donate during that time will be eligible for special thank-you gifts.
For the Salvation Army, donations can be made online or dropped off until Dec. 19 at the Salvation Army's Toy Shop Warehouse, at 2116-D New Bern Ave. in Raleigh.
Donations to the Durham Rescue Mission can be dropped off at the mission's 1201 E. Main St. or 507 E. Knox St. campuses, and Walmart stores in Durham, Hillsborough and Roxboro are holding toy drives on Dec. 15.
They can also be dropped off at Mark Jacobson Toyota on Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard in Durham until Dec. 17.
The Salvation Army is also hoping to see an increase in Red Kettle donations, which will help pay for any gifts still needed after the gift drive ends Wednesday.
Kettles are located across Wake County, including Walmart stores, Harris Teeter stores, North Hills shopping center, Triangle Town Center and Cary Towne Center.