LIMA — The Salvation Army of Allen County will celebrate its 125th birthday this year, and it hopes for plenty of gifts from the community. The group kicked off what will be a year-long birthday celebration Thursday with a lunch and open house for board members and supporters. During the meeting, Major Phil Tamayo highlighted the work the Salvation Army has done since coming to Lima in 1888. Over the years, the group fed, clothed and offered aid to thousands of children in adults. In 2011 alone, the Salvation Army assisted more than 19,000 people with after-school programs, worship services material assistance and an annual Christmas campaign that brought Christmas help to 3,240 individuals and distributed 5,762 toys. Tamayo said it is the support of the community and partnerships with other agencies that make those efforts possible.“It truly does take every one of us in the community to make it happen,” Tamayo said.Major Hugh Steele III, divisional commander for the Salvation Army, said the group’s work has become increasingly necessary in recent years. Since the beginning of the most recent recession in 2007, requests for services have gone up 30 percent. Even as the economy improves, new people show up at the center’s doors.“Families continue to struggle. Yes, the economy is getting better, but the reality is there are still people in need,” Steele said.Thursday’s meeting was also the launch of the Army’s 125th Club. The group is asking community members to commit to a $125 donation for the year. Board member Bill Clinger, who also serves as marketing director for The Lima News, said the relatively small donation can make a big difference in the community.“The reality is, those dollars turn into real service to the community,” Clinger said.You can comment on this story at www.limaohio.com.