Salvation Army Memphis deals with crashed phone lines, expands ‘Angel Tree’ program beyond presents

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Volunteers at Salvation Army Memphis are starting to feel the holiday spirit.

On Monday, they started taking calls for their “Angel Tree” program where people in need get a chance to have their holiday wish lists fulfilled by generous community members.

“We are already thinking about Christmas," said Capt. Zach Bell, the Salvation Army area commander in Memphis.

Volunteers started taking calls for their “Angel Tree” program that benefits families in need for the holidays.

“We had just in the first hour, we had over 10,000 calls for assistance in our Angel Tree program. So many calls that it actually crashed the system itself.”

He says it took about two hours to get their phone lines up and running again – a problem they’ve had before.

“We continue to see more and more people call us at their greatest time of need, so we’re happy as a Salvation Army to try our best to reach those needs; we’re just trying to get technology to keep up with that.”

They’ll keep taking calls through the end of the week, or until all the spots are filled, from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Participants will come in for their final screenings in October, and community members will have the chance to adopt them in November.

This year, they’re also working to expand their help for Angel Tree participants beyond the presents.

“We are going to not just provide an amazing Christmas season for these families, but actually help them through different programs.”

They’ve teamed up with United Way for the Transitions to Success Program. It’s going to offer individualized programs like budgeting, parenting and job skills for their clients.

“Some of these clients quickly said, 'Anything will help, we will take any type of that help.'”

The goal is to not only brighten thousands of people’s holidays, but also their future.

The new phone number to call and be considered for the Angel Tree program is (901) 410-5178.

It’s important to keep in mind those spots are staying closed until phones are working again.