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Salvation Army hopes to ring in holiday donations

November 21, 1997

By GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writer

After a lackluster 1996 holiday season ringing bells at shopping center kettles, Tri-State area Salvation Army chapters are hoping for better returns in their fund-raising efforts this year.

But various problems - including the possibility of poor weather and a lack of staff to ring bells - are causing concern among some local Salvation Army chapters that have dozens of kettles in the region.

"I'm having a terrible time. I mean we are desperate for volunteers," said Bob Weagly, kettle coordinator for the Chambersburg, Pa., Salvation Army.

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He said the chapter's 14 kettle stands are staffed between 33 percent and 50 percent of the time, and are resulting in donations that coming in 15 percent to 20 percent less than last year.

Weagly said it is hard to pinpoint why there are not more volunteers.

"You can do a lot of searching, but you can't come up with answers," he said.

Chambersburg does not have a specific dollar amount it hopes to raise, but the Salvation Army in Martinsburg, W.Va., is setting a goal of $50,000 in kettle funds. That's about $10,000 more than what it raised last year, which was "just short" of the chapter's goal, said Maj. David Johnston.

But like Chambersburg, Johnston said there are not enough bell-ringers to keep his chapter's 10 locations operating at all times.

Unlike Chambersburg, the Martinsburg chapter pays some of its kettle staff.

Proceeds from the kettle drive help fund various programs, such as emergency shelters, food programs, pantries and transitional housing, and make up a large portion of the agencies' budgets.

"The Christmas fund-raising effort carries us through the year," said Maj. Robert Henderson, commanding officer of the Hagerstown Salvation Army.

Some Salvation Army officials said what makes the holiday drive even more crucial this is that the demand for Salvation Army services is rising, as welfare reform legislation is forcing people off of public assistance and onto private social service agencies.

"Somebody has to fee them and take care of them," Johnston said.

This year the Hagerstown Salvation Army is setting a goal of raising just under $55,000 from people dropping money into the kettles. That's the same goal as last year, which came up about $2,000 short of the goal, said Harry Barger, business administrator for the organization.

Barger hopes a healthy local economy is a good sign for this year's drive.

"That's what we hope. People are spending and buying. We just hope that they also look to help us with the homeless and needy of the county," he said.

But the chapter is bringing an end to a longtime tradition by not having a kettle downtown this year, said Barger.

Barger said the change in downtown over the past few years from a retail center to more professional offices has made setting up a downtown kettle obsolete.

"We found it just wasn't paying to do so," he said.

Weather also could play a factor. Johnston lamented that he already has had one weekend of bad weather that pushed down donations, with more rain forecast for today. A few more wet weekends, a larger possibility this year with the El Nino storms, could hurt donations even more.

"Sometimes, the weather keeps you from doing what you want to do," Johnston said.

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