3Qs: Susan Gilbert, director of social services for Salvation Army



With Halloween in the rearview mirror, Tupelo’s Salvation Army is heading into the busiest time of the year. Susan Gilbert, director of social services for the Salvation Army in Northeast Mississippi, said the large-scale efforts taking place for Christmas and Thanksgiving require quite a bit of strategy. Daily Journal religion reporter Riley Manning asked Gilbert about the season.

Q. Exactly what does the Army do for the holidays?

A. Our Angel Tree campaign will go up in the food court of The Mall at Barnes Crossing on Nov. 11. We’ve had families in need apply for their children’s Christmas wish lists to go up on the tree. That means we make the child’s list anonymous, give their top three wishes and also some recommended gifts. Their clothing sizes are also included. We hang this information on the angel tree and mall shoppers can register to purchase some of the items on the list.

The next big event is our Thanksgiving Day meal that usually feeds around 3,000 and even delivers for those who call and tell us they want a plate. The next day, Nov. 29, we’ll have our Angel kickoff, where we send the bell-ringers out until Christmas Day.

Q. What is the Army most in need of?

A. The Angel Tree will be up through Dec. 14, and we really need all the people we can get to help make these kids’ wishes come true.

We also need volunteers to ring bells outside stores. They are stationed at more than 20 locations across Lee, Prentiss and Union counties. Without volunteers, we’ll have to hire people to ring the bells, and that uses money that could go toward helping people directly.

Q. As far as donations go, what type of things are most welcome this time of year?

A. As much as we appreciate food donations, we can actually make the money go further because we are tax-exempt. Plus, we get food items at a discount, and at an even lower price when we buy in bulk.

We also really need blankets and coats for the individuals staying in our lodge, as well as for people outside the lodge having trouble paying their higher electric bills as the weather gets colder.

The Army gets a lot of traffic during the holiday season, but we also need people to remember we’re open 365 days of the year.