We’ve all heard the ringing bells, we’ve seen the collection kettles, and sometimes dropped in a dollar or some change.

Holidays are a time when the Salvation Army returns to the public consciousness.

But Wilton has a Salvation Army unit that operates a little differently–did you know the bell ringers outside Wilton’s Stop & Shop are not Wilton’s unit?

“They’re from Norwalk… we raise differently.” said Tina Gardner, the chairman of the Wilton unit.

Gardner reached out to GOOD Morning Wilton because her unit has not had as much help as in years past. “We get a budget from Hartford, and then whatever we raise. I don’t think we’ve raised any more than $5,000 in any given year. And in the last few years it’s gone down. We usually raise about $2-3,000, and we get at least $5,000 from [Hartford].”

Wilton’s Salvation Army volunteers work closely with Cathy Pierce, director of Wilton’s Department of Social Services, to help out year-round with meeting emergency and supplementary needs of Wilton residents. “When people have something start to happen, and they’re not qualified yet for assistance, we can fill that gap and that point, especially for rent, utilities, food.”

The unit also runs a gift card program to provide needy Wilton children with shoes at back-to-school time. “In the fall, social services has a list of children that need shoes, and we buy Payless gift cards to give to families that need shoes for their children. They’re valued at $30, and Payless gives us a break, we buy them at $25. We were able to get 40 cards last year–we wanted to get more but we didn’t have the funds.”

In addition, the Wilton unit sponsors a family or at least one child with gifts each year at Christmas. “Most likely it’s been clothing, to help out with the wish list that they have.”

In past years they’ve run other programs, from helping provide bathroom safety bars for seniors to buying flashlights for residents at Ogden House. “They had so many outages, the people needed flashlights so that they’d be prepared. I was able to get them for a good price through the fire department. Now we mostly help supplement with utilities. Really, we work with anything with Social Services where we can help.”

Gardner said the Norwalk unit comes to Wilton to collect because they have a much greater need there. As well, it’s not as time effective for the few volunteers that are part of the Wilton group to try and collect through bell ringing and kettle donations. “We’re a very small unit, and we could get people to volunteer their time [that way] but it’s historically not how we’ve gotten donations.”

The Wilton unit fundraises basically via donations that people send by check, and Gardner says several of the unions in town are annual contributors. Of the donations, 90-percent stays right here in Wilton, and the remaining 10-percent gets sent to the district office in Hartford. “But every year they give us money, we’re probably getting more than 100-percent at this point.”

Gardner is making the appeal that the Wilton Salvation Army unit cannot provide this critical assistance without the generosity of Wilton residents, who donate directly to the Wilton unit. “That doesn’t preclude helping in other ways, because the Salvation Army does help when there are larger disasters. And we know it’s a busy time of year, everyone is out there trying to help other people–that’s why you have a ‘Season of Giving’ on GOOD Morning Wilton. I understand we’re not the only ones.”

Seems like Wilton’s Salvation Army unit is definitely a worthy one.

To help Wilton’s Salvation Army make the holidays a little brighter for Wilton families all year long, send your donations payable to the “Wilton Unit, Salvation Army” to Louise Delaney, 38 Woods End Drive, Wilton, CT 06897

Another way to make a small donation of $10 is through a new program offered by the Salvation Army, called “Text to Give.” Use your mobile device to send a text to 41444, with the word “WILTONSA.” You will receive a reply message with a link to fulfill your pledge of $10.  If you prefer to give a different amount, you can text “WILTONSA” followed by the dollar amount of your gift.