The Salvation Army in Central Ohio is hoping to spread Christmas cheer far and wide this holiday season.

The program allows families in need to register for Christmas gifts and a full take-home meal through the end of November at any of the organization’s local centers: 3662 Karl Road, 2300 W. Mound St., 888 Parsons Ave., 966 E. Main St. and 760 Worthington Woods Blvd.

Photo identification of a head of household and proof of dependents and their birthdates are required for registration, which will be completed during select dates and hours throughout the month.

Debra Ashcraft, a major in the local Salvation Army, said despite the economic upturn, many people are struggling.

The nonprofit helped about 22,000 people last year.

“We anticipate, based on the number of people last year and how busy we’ve been at the Salvation Army food pantries, the need will be as great or greater this year,” Ashcraft said.

“We want families to know if they want help with toys or food, the Salvation Army wants to help them.”

Families will get to choose their children’s toys and take home a box of Christmas Day meals on specified dates starting the week of Dec. 18 in the Lausche Building at the Ohio Expo Center & State Fair, 717 E. 17th Ave.

Kristin Hampton-Harmon, Salvation Army spokeswoman in Columbus, said the organization will hand out 15,000 to 20,000 toys.

The age range for toy recipients is 14 years old and younger, Hampton-Harmon said.

“When they get (to be) 10 to 14, that’s our biggest challenge, getting toys for our older children,” she said.

Donors have many ways to give, Hampton-Harmon said.

The Red Kettles kickoff starts Nov. 17 at area Kroger stores, where Salvation Army bell-ringers will help collect cash donations. Throughout the holidays, 80 kettles will be set up beyond those at Kroger stores.

Those who don’t carry cash can use a mobile-device option, with instructions displayed on the kettle.

Supporters also can sponsor a family by donating a Red Box to a family in need. A $50 donation will provide a box with turkey or chicken, stuffing, potatoes, apples, vegetables, milk, eggs, bread, dessert and a board game. Donations can be made online at salvationarmyredbox.org.

To donate to the Angel Tree toy drive and check specific times and dates for gift registration, visit salvationarmycolumbus.org.

Hampton-Harmon said the Salvation Army does not accept food donations.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary