FLORENCE — Salvation Army Maj. Sue Dorman may be new to the Shoals, but she has already picked up on the giving spirit of the area.
The new commander said she's been out in the community enough to see how supportive people are of the Salvation Army. And, that's important, especially given that the Salvation Army has more requests for Christmas assistance than ever this year.
"I'm a product of the Salvation Army with my own family receiving help beginning when I was just a young child," Dorman said, adding the Salvation Army provided Christmas gifts yearly to her and her five siblings growing up in Durham, N.C.
"I can tell you from firsthand experience as a child what it means to have Christmas gifts when you know in your heart there is no possible way financially."
It made such an impression that she still remembers, year by year, what she received for Christmas.
In the third grade she was given a toy dog that walked beside her. In fourth grade, she received a small baby doll in a bubble and a baton.
"I just knew I had toys like the other kids and I was appreciative," she said.
Today, she's in her 33rd year as an officer with the Salvation Army. Transferred to the Shoals from Tupelo last summer, Dorman said she's ready to start impacting the lives of those in the Shoals who need help this Christmas season.
Empty Table Fund open for donations
The TimesDaily-sponsored Empty Table Fund is entering its 40th year of collections with a 2014 goal of $40,000.
Benefitting the Salvation Army, the fund has generated more than $340,000 in the past decade to help the needy in the Shoals area and Franklin County.
The money generated through the fund is used for the Salvation Army's Christmas assistance programs and to help meet needs in the community through the spring.
According to Salvation Army office manager Patricia Clemmons, the Angel Trees, which will be located throughout the Shoals this year, will contain the names of 1,698 children.
There are about 100 names more than last year. Clemmons said many of the applicants were first-time participants in the program.
The Angel Tree program allows the public the opportunity to select names of children, ages birth to 12 years, and purchase gifts for them.
"We have to believe that the economy is still a factor in this number being up from last year," Clemmons said. "We tightened the requirements this year whereby clients, more than ever, had to show need."
The Angel Tree will not be located in the Florence Mall this year, but seven trees will be in a variety of Florence and Muscle Shoals locations. The Angel Trees will open at all locations Thursday and run through Wednesday, Dec. 10, one week before gift distribution.
Red kettles will be out on Nov. 21 in locations through the Shoals and Franklin County, according to Dorman.
A goal has not yet been set for the kettle collections but Dorman said she doesn't worry about lagging collections because "people are not only supportive of what the Salvation Army does, they see our mission of helping others and meeting needs."
As for her own upbringing, Dorman said the help her family received from the Salvation Army parlayed into involvement with the church's youth group, a job with the Salvation Army at 16 and officer's school in her 20s.
"I believe God knows when we're born exactly why we're here," she said. "It's a circle. My family had help, and now I'm in a position to help others."
The Empty Table Fund is an opportunity for the public to give to help the less fortunate. It began in 1974, primarily as a food collection effort and has evolved into a public donation campaign.
Donations to the fund may be dropped off at the TimesDaily, 219 W. Tennessee St., Florence, or mailed to the Empty Table Fund, P.O. Box 797, Florence, AL 35631.
By The Numbers
Money raised in recent Empty Table campaigns: