CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- The Chattanooga Salvation Army is gearing up to officially start it's Christmas campaign.           

Local organizers are stressing, the need is much higher this year and already surpassing last year's total.

New census data shows America's poorest of the poor has hit a new record.

More than 20 million Americans are living in poverty, that is one in every 15 people.  

Salvation Army officials in Chattanooga say those numbers are definitely reflected in the demand they're facing, especially as the holidays approach.

"The salvation army is concerned to say the least," says Kimberly George with the Salvation.

Angel tree applications are being accepted in Cleveland, for another few days, for families needing help giving their kids something to open Christmas morning.

Chattanooga's are all in, more than 3,300 of them.

"That is just about the amount that we had total for Cleveland and Chattanooga last year so the need is up. The need is greater," says George.

Salvation army officials say they're not surprised.

"The economy is still struggling and so folks are still struggling. We're getting more and more layoffs in our community and surrounding communities," says George. "There's still many of our neighbors who are struggling from the April 27th storms, still trying to rebuild their families and their homes from that."

More reasons, the Salvation Army says, to give a good Christmas to local kids in need.

"So many lives have been disturbed from natural disaster this last spring and so we really want this Christmas to be special from them. To have some type of normality back in their lives, where they're opening presents under a Christmas tree," says George.

That means they're also upping their fundraising goal for red kettle collections.

Last year, the red kettles brought in around $350,000. They're hoping to get $385,000 over the next six weeks.

If you can't offer money,they say more people to serve means they'll also need more volunteers this year.

"We're asking you, you know, step up, be a shield with us," says George.

The Christmas kick off event for Chattanooga is at Hamilton Place Mall, Friday evening.

Cleveland's is Saturday afternoon at Bradley Square Mall.        

The Salvation Army in Cleveland is still taking Angel Tree applications through Monday. Click here for information on how to apply.