The numbers are sobering.

In fiscal year 2007, Newton’s Salvation Army office has given aid to 5,125 people, an increase of 500 from the previous year.

“I just think it’s the current economy,” director Marcia Brazil said. “Gas has a major role in it, and groceries have gone up, as well. Last year, we gave away 1,700 food boxes. We gave away 1,408 the year before.”

The aid office, which has been moved into the Salvation Army Store in the 400 block of North Main, is open from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Fridays.

And the Salvation Army gave more aid despite its annual Harvest of Love food drive coming up short — both in the pounds of food collected and cash collected.

It hasn’t been easy for the organization.

“The increase in people means we are depleting what we have in our pantry,” Brazil said. “Harvest of Love is coming up and so is Christmas. We really need the community to support both of those efforts.”

The organization is bracing for a big year at Christmas because this year more than 450 children qualified for school supply help when the school year began. Each of those children automatically qualifies for the Christmas present program in December.

The key word for Brazil is qualify — not just anyone can get the help her office has to offer.

In order to get the help, they have to qualify under income guidelines.

And more people are qualifying every year.

“Last Friday, we helped 42 families with food, and that translates into 116 people we helped that day,” Brazil said. “Think about that number over a five-day week. Last year, we spent more than $12,000 on rent and utilities assistance and $6,000 on prescription drug assistance. We are very thin. At this point, we don’t limit service, and we generally don’t turn new people away.”

She said there is no desire to turn people away, but as more people qualify for assistance, the organization needs to find new ways to give the help.

And, unfortunately, she does not see an end to the cycle of increasing need.

“Unless something big happens, and I don’t know what that would be, our numbers will be up again,” Brazil said.

Her office will continue to offer rent and utility assistance, food boxes, Christmas gifts and assistance to those who qualify.

And she isn’t downplaying how important the fall food drive and Christmas gift collection will be.

“I always panic at Christmas,” Brazil said. “Each year, we see more and more people who qualify for help. ... Last year, we didn’t meet our goals for Harvest of Love. We were down on poundage and cash. I’m assuming our goals won’t change this year — we’ll try and meet the goals we set last year.”