PEKIN, Ill. (WMBD) — The local Salvation Army’s largest fundraiser is underway, the annual Tree of Lights campaign.

The donations that are collected will assist in a number of areas, including helping some community members become self-sufficient.

Following a knee injury in 2019, Pekin native David Dicken faced job insecurity, which led to his family of 6 experiencing homelessness.

“Becoming homeless is something nobody wants to endure because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Dicken said. “It’s not so much me or my wife, it was where are we taking our children.”

After reaching out to agencies and shelters, that could potentially split up his family, Dicken found hope at the Salvation Army’s Rust Transitional Center in Pekin.

“My children walked in a smile went on their face because they knew they were safe,” Dicken said.

The shelter not only provides a safe place to sleep but also services like housing assistance.

“It makes you stronger, it really does, because you go from this plateau to the bottom. Now you’re building yourself back up to go, ok, how can I avoid this in the future,” Dicken said.

Staff also aid those at the shelter to achieve their short-term goals.

“Finding employment, paying off debt, figuring out if you had an eviction on your record, how can we help you pay that off,” said Brandy Wright, social services manager at Pekin Salvation Army.

The Pekin Salvation Army has a goal of raising $169,000 dollars during this year’s Tree of Lights, which accounts for 20 percent of their yearly budget. Staff said every penny helps change local lives.

“Our goal is to support that family, support that client.” said Major Anita Sells, associate Peoria area commander with the Salvation Army. “They set the standard that they want to reach and it’s our job to help them get there.”

The iconic Salvation Army Red Kettles will be out until December 24th. The Tree of Lights campaign runs through January 31st.

You can also donate at the Pekin Salvation Army’s website.