At the end of this week, the biggest Christmas giveaway in central New York takes place and the high numbers of families who signed up for the annual Christmas Bureau shows an economy that's still hurting.
Just over 2,800 families registered for the Salvation Army's Christmas Bureau distribution this year, according to the Salvation Army's Major George Polarek.
"I think the economy now is not in good shape, more and more people are a little leery about where their dollars are going, how many gifts are being purchased, or who they are giving their contributions to," he says.
The numbers of families getting help during the annual distribution has increased in recent years because of the weak economy, he says. Polarek adds one of the disturbing trends he sees is that people who used to volunteer for the giveaway, are now on the receiving end.
With five days to go to the giveaway at the at the OnCenter, Polarek says their biggest need continues to be toy donations as well as financial contributes to buy turkeys.
The Friday giveaway offers families that fall within certain income guidelines a holiday food basket that includes a turkey, as well as toys and books for children.
"When a client or a family comes through the door, we want to know what your needs are," Polarek explains.
The Salvation Army looks to coordinate with other organizations, like Catholic Charities or the Food Bank, to make sure those served get as much assistance as possible.
"That collaboration is how we've been able to operate the past year," Polarek says.
He says the number of families served has been bumping up against the 3,000 number since the economic downturn of 2008.