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Lee Benson
Captain Anie Trimmer at the Salvation Army headquarters in Salt Lake City.

SALT LAKE CITY — Christmas is right around the corner. Nobody has to tell Capt. Anie Trimmer that.

Anie (pronounced Annie) is in charge of the programs at the Salvation Army that provide Christmas for people who otherwise would go without. She’s Santa Claus, but without the beard and the reindeer — and, if anything, even higher energy.

Because Trimmer has tighter deadlines.

In her world, Christmas comes in mid-December. That’s when people subbing for Santa need to complete their shopping so the Salvation Army can make sure the gifts are delivered by the 25th.

Trimmer spends the fall making a list and checking it twice, identifying those truly in need among us. She makes home visits to personally vet and verify the legitimacy of people’s claims.

“If I tell you they need bunk beds it’s because I’ve been in their bedrooms,” she says. “Trust me, they need bunk beds.”

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Trimmer was a young woman growing up in Hawaii when she got her first taste of serving others.

Her boyfriend asked her to go to church with him at the Salvation Army.

Her response: “The Salvation Army isn’t a church; it’s a thrift store on the corner.”

A common misconception, the boyfriend assured her. The Salvation Army is both a church and a thrift store.

Lee Benson
Captain Anie Trimmer of the Salvation Army.

So she went. This was in 1990. Then she went back.

The boyfriend didn’t stick, but the Salvation Army did.

“I saw the way the Salvation Army integrated their love and their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and went out and met and shouldered the needs of others,” she says.

“Part of being the body of Christ is that we are his hands and feet to those that are in need.”

A year later, a young man from Cheyenne, Wyoming, was sent to Honolulu to serve as assistant corps officer at the Salvation Army unit there. His name was Troy Trimmer. Anie met her future husband at church.

She joined the ranks of the Salvation Army, quite literally, becoming a captain in the military-style organization while Troy became a major, both deciding to make their church their career.

The Salvation Army first posted the husband-wife team in California, then Oregon, then Colorado, before sending them to Utah to take over as officers in charge of the Salt Lake City Corps. Anie and Troy Trimmer have been here since 2014.

All year long, they’re busy providing food boxes, clothing, utility assistance, community meals and other services in the Salt Lake area. But at Christmastime, well, there’s nothing quite like Christmastime.

While Troy supervises the ubiquitous Salvation Army kettles, Capt. Anie oversees the Angel Tree program that provides Christmas for kids 12 and under and for senior citizens; the Children’s Christmas program that takes care of the wish lists of multiple siblings; and the Adopt-a-Family program for families whose needs go well beyond a tree and toys. They need beds to sleep on, tables to eat off, towels, clothes, blankets and food for the refrigerator.

Add it all up, and it’s a small army getting help. Last Christmas, more than 6,000 kids, senior citizens and families were serviced through Angel Tree, Children’s Christmas and Adopt-a-Family.

This year, knock on wood, will equal or exceed 2017.

However many get helped, the demand, Anie says, will never exceed the supply.

“The need is so great, we’ll never help them all,” she says, before adding helpfully, “But even Jesus didn’t help everybody when he was on the Earth. What matters is to give when and where you can.”

Many local groups lend their support. KUTV, for instance, has sponsored Angel Tree for the past 26 years.

Here at the Deseret News, we sponsor the Children’s Christmas and Adopt-a-Family programs — helping the cause by providing profiles and information about the children and families in need and an online link for aspiring Santa substitutes at: deseretnews.com/sub-for-santa.

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Anie Trimmer is the one who keeps it all coordinated. How does she do it?

“A lot of prayer and I try to sleep,” she says. “And Zipfizz. Have you ever tried Zipfizz? The drinks have B-12 in them so when you’re nodding off it perks you up for a couple of hours.”

This time of year is rewarding, but also, she confesses, “very tiring.”

“Weary comes first,” she says with a good-natured grin as she braces for the busy season. “The warm feeling you get from helping someone else, that comes later.”