The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle fund-raiser pays for holiday assistance programs, as well as those offered year-round. (Photo courtesy Salvation Army)The Salvation Army is desperately short on volunteers for its annual Christmas gift and food distribution event, Neighborhood Gift. Normally about 800 volunteers are needed and at the moment the organization is about 600 people short.Major Edward Markham, divisional secretary for the Salvation Army Alaska Division, said the people within the organization aren’t exactly sure why they are so short on volunteers. Part of the problem is that the two-day event is taking place a week earlier this year than normal, on Dec. 13 and 14, because that’s when the Sullivan Arena is available. He said that gives volunteer recruiters less time to jump on the season’s spirit.Another issue may be that more people are in need themselves, Markham said. “The economy being the way it is right now, the amount of folks that are coming to us have increased across the board for both us and other social service agencies.”Volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks, Markham explained, like registering families to receive the gifts.Families need to provide proof of where they live, that they are in need and how many kids they have.Volunteers then help the families select the toys and food. Others help restock the tables with items and carry things to cars and bus stops.Last year more than 7,500 children received gifts from the event. A Salvation Army spokesperson said the organization is short on toys so far this year, too.You can register to volunteer or find out where to donate here.The event is done in coordination with the United Way of Anchorage, the Food Bank of Alaska, Lutheran Social Services of Alaska, and U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots.