BY JAMES LOEWENSTEIN

Families in need in Bradford County can now sign up for assistance that will be provided this Christmas by the Salvation Army.

The assistance being offered includes new toys and new clothing for children, as well as a holiday food basket for families, said Betty Ellen Barrett, the Salvation Army service extension regional manager.

Families can apply for all three kinds of assistance at the same time by filling out an application at the Salvation Army office at 218 Main St. in Towanda, she said.

Families applying for the assistance need to provide ID, proof of income, proof of residency, and a Social Security card or birth certificate for all children, she said.

The Salvation Army office is staffed from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, but it is recommended that people call the office at 265-5932 beforehand to make an appointment to fill out the application at the office.

The new clothing being offered is provided through the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program, as well as from clothing and coat drives. The Salvation Army is looking for businesses, churches and other organizations to host clothing and coat drives or participate in the Angel Tree program, Barrett said.

Under the Angel Tree program, a Christmas tree is set up at a business or church and information about children in need, including their age, gender, clothing sizes and their Christmas wish - which is usually a toy - is hung from the tree. Members of the public are then invited to obtain information about a child from the tree and purchase new clothing or the toy for the child, Barrett said.

However, many of the new toys that the Salvation Army will distribute at Christmas are being provided through the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots program, Barrett said.

Businesses and churches are also encouraged to participate in the Toys for Tots program by hosting a large box where the public can drop off new toys, which will be distributed by the Salvation Army.

Each holiday food basket includes "everything they would need for a Christmas dinner," including a frozen turkey, Barrett said.

Senior citizens in need are also invited to sign up for the holiday food baskets, Barrett said.

The new clothing and toys collected through these drives will be distributed in Bradford County, Barrett said.

The Towanda Salvation Army office serves most of Bradford County.

"Sayre and Athens residents generally go to the Sayre Salvation Army, but pretty much everything else (in Bradford County) is covered by the Towanda office," Barrett said.

The new clothing, toys and holiday food baskets will be distributed to the families on Dec. 21 at the Chemung Canal Trust Co. office at 304 Main St. in Towanda, Barrett said.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or e-mail: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.