Former traffic reporter finds herself on receiving end of charity.

CHICAGO (CBS) – It’s a hallmark of the holiday season: giving to charity. Donations are down and requests are up; even among people who never expect to need a helping hand. CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez introduces us to one of them.

“I never, ever, thought that I’d have to ask for help from anybody,” said Sheila White. “And I think that people are realizing that it’s a lot closer than they think.”

Just a few years ago, Sheila White was flying high as the Fox 32 traffic reporter. But after leaving the station, a messy divorce and a medical issue, she hit bottom.

“Because I was a part-time worker, I had no benefits, nothing,” said White. “The first time I made the phone call to ask for help, I couldn’t talk. I began to cry and I couldn’t even speak.”

She decided to reach out to The Salvation Army.

“They were so wonderful, so incredibly wonderful,” said White. “They helped with my son’s child care fees. They helped with my rent. I just could not believe that I was in this situation.”

White represents a whole new category of client. The person who used to give, but now receives help from The Salvation Army.

“I think right now there are a lot of families that are facing some long-lasting crisis for the first time in their lives” said Col. Ralph Bukiewicz with The Salvation Army.

Demand is up nearly 400 percent in some parts of the city, for basic necessities, like food.

“Especially during Christmas, we’re providing toys, warm winter garments, baskets of food, and a whole variety of other parties and services throughout the city,” Bukiewicz said.

Yet, the donations to those red kettles is down some 10 percent over last year.

White wants people to know their gifts to charity make a huge difference. She says she feels like she is over the worst.

“Oh my goodness, my comeback is going to be better than Tina Turner’s. I’m serious!” said White.

The whole humbling experience has given her the guts to pursue her passion: singing.

We talked to other charities like the American Cancer Society and the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and they all say they are having to work harder for donations.

In some cases, more people are giving, but in smaller amounts. And need is great everywhere.

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