Economic need overwhelming Salvation Army

Posted November 23, 2010 9:56 p.m. EST
Updated November 23, 2010 11:38 p.m. EST

— The Salvation Army of Wake County's Christmas programs are in full swing, but donations are down, while the number of families needing help is up.

“Last year, we had a really hard time meeting the need that we had, and that was only 5,600 children,” the nonprofit’s public relations director, Haven Sink, said. “This year, we have over 7,000 children.”

Sink said Tuesday that 25 percent of the families who registered to receive toys and clothing this holiday season are seeking help for the first time.

Yahaira Ortiz falls into that category.

Nearly two years ago, she lost her job in Florida and moved to North Carolina in January for a new start with her boyfriend.

The relationship ended badly, and she and her children now live in temporary housing, two months’ removed from a battered women’s shelter.

Ortiz said she’s tried to explain to her 11-year-old that the bad times won’t last forever.

“There’s going to be moments where he won’t be able to have everything he wants,” she said. “But in the future, things are going to be better.”

Her new part-time job is helping her get back on her feet, but it’s not enough. Underemployed as the holidays approach, she’s reached out to the Salvation Army.

“It was a little bit difficult – nothing to be ashamed of,” she said. “What’s most important for me? For my kids to, at least, have something for Christmas.”

Ortiz said she understands why other families might be reluctant to do what she did.

“I know that it’s difficult,” she said. “Sometimes, you feel ashamed, but you have to do what you have to do – especially if it’s for your kids.”