Looking to provide a full Christmas experience for those who may be struggling during the holidays, the Harvey County Salvation Army and its community partners are willing to go the extra mile.

During its annual Christmas distribution (held Thursday and Friday), the Salvation Army and volunteers pass out food boxes — with all the fixings — that go to any and all individuals who sign up for it. Families with children also get gift packages (about three items per child) filled out through the annual Toy Run and with proceeds from the Red Kettle campaign.

This year, Salvation Army case worker Tisha Butler noted volunteers also helped stuff several handmade stockings with fruit, snacks and candy canes to pass out for kids, as well. On top of that, while the Christmas distribution typically has a set deadline, Butler noted the organization will work with families this year to make sure those in need get some crucial assistance over the holidays.

"Up until Christmas Eve, you message us on Facebook, you say 'Hey, I need a gift,' we're going to make sure you get a gift for your kid," Butler said. "This year we're doing it a little different."

Gifts are based on general requests made by families who sign up for the Christmas distribution. While toys are a big part of that, Butler said there are families who request clothing items (jeans, shirts, etc.), bedding or some other necessities. The Salvation Army works within the framework of the program to provide those requests (within reason), like securing a skateboard to meet the Christmas wish of one child.

Partnering with the Newton Ministerial Alliance allows the Salvation Army to provide the Christmas dinner to go along with those gifts, as Butler (payee for the NMA) pointed out that group pays for all the food boxes the Salvation Army puts together for the distribution. The NMA also helps put those boxes together — which come with all the fixings.

"The (food box) comes complete with a Christmas meat and there's jello, there's fruit, there's stuffing, there's mashed potatoes," Butler said. "It is a complete Christmas dinner. This is everything you would need."

Miscellaneous items — like wrapping paper and more hand-sewn goods — are also available for pick-up this year, with Butler noting as long as anyone in need signs up, the Salvation Army will be there to try and help.

"You never know how much it means to somebody else. You don't know somebody else's situation. When they walk in and they're like, 'I don't know what to do,' it's OK. We're here. We're going to help you fix the problem. Whether it be you need a can of soup, whether it be you need a hug, whether it be you need help paying a bill, we're going to get you to where you're solid," Butler said. "Today you may be good, tomorrow you may not, so we're going to help you. That's what we do."

Community partnerships help with that, as Butler noted the Newton Ministerial Alliance has always helped fund the Harvey County Salvation Army's food bank. Community contributions to the "Harvest of Love" also make a difference locally, and Butler pointed out that donations to the organization's Red Kettle campaign always come back tenfold — like helping with the Christmas distributions.

Last year, the Salvation Army distributed to 250 individuals for Christmas, while that number increased to 325 this year. Through it all, gratitude is a common theme — with Butler and the rest of the volunteers seeing more of that this week.

"(Thursday) was very phenomenal. We had a lady ... she was just overwhelmed. She didn't speak very much English, but she was overwhelmed at how much she was getting and how much love she was getting," Butler said. "When she got a sack full of groceries and a sack full of toys, I think the kindness was overwhelming."

With the extended deadline this year, Butler and the Salvation Army hope to continue spreading that overwhelming joy. For those looking for additional help this holiday season, contact the Harvey County Salvation Army at 283-3190.