KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The holiday season brings a high demand for the work done by local charities, including the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program. Organizers say there are more requests than ever this year.
There are about 60 businesses throughout Knox, Blount and Sevier counties that are participating in the program. Even though the registration closed last month, organizers say they're still getting calls from needy families looking for help with Christmas gifts.
National Fitness Center participates every year. Employees at the Tazewell Pike location were putting up their tree Wednesday.
"We try getting ours up pretty early so it gives our employees and members enough time to go find that gift that's right for their person they're wanting to buy for," Leah Nicely, assistant manager, said.
For each of the 40 angels on their tree, there's a different wish from needy children in the area.
"It keeps getting bigger and bigger each year, so more and more people are getting involved in it, and that's the best thing because everybody deserves a good Christmas," Nicely said.
Salvation Army employee Erica Haigler organizes the local Angel Tree program. She says there have been more requests this year than ever before.
"Approximately 1,100 families, which is roughly about 3,000 children," Haigler said.
That's up about 25 percent from last year.
"We have seen a trend this year with a lot of single mothers needing more assistance than normal," Haigler said.
Whether there are enough sponsors or not, Haigler said every child in the program will receive a gift.
"The Salvation Army makes sure of that, even if they're not picked up by a donor or sponsor," Haigler said.
The program gives gifts to children up to 12 years old. All of the Angel Trees should be up by Thanksgiving.