Salvation Army collections lagging a bit

December 17, 1997

Salvation Army collections lagging a bit


Staff Writer

Despite a strong economy, Tri-State area Salvation Army kettles aren't filling as quickly as the organization's officials would like.

"The kettles are about the same, but not quite as good, as last year," said Maj. Robert Henderson, commanding officer of the Hagerstown Salvation Army.

Henderson said the most recent estimates indicate the kettle campaign is about 5 percent behind last year's effort, when the organization collected about $53,000 from its holiday drive. Its goal this year was to bring in $55,000, a boost that was anticipated in part because of the vibrant economy.


"We should be doing better than last year. At this point we should be 5 or 10 percent ahead of last year," he said.

Henderson is at a loss to explain why the coins and dollar bills aren't being tossed into the kettles in the amount he'd hoped. He said one reason might be that one of his best bell ringers returned to work only last weekend after being out with a broken hip.

"Maybe she'll come on strong and we'll have a good finish," he said.

Salvation Army kettles in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle, with a goal of $30,000 for the season, have brought in about $20,000 so far. Barring an 11th-hour giving spree, that gap won't be closed, said Maj. David Johnston, commanding officer of the Salvation Army in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Johnston said one problem he has had to deal with is getting people to operate the kettles. On any given day, as many as four of the organization's 10 kettles are closed because there are not enough people to staff them, he said.

"We're not pulling our hair out. We trust the Lord will help us meet our needs," Johnston said.

Getting enough bell ringers is also a problem in Franklin County, Pa., where the 14 kettle sites are staffed about 80 percent of the time, said Bob Weagly, kettle coordinator for the Salvation Army in Chambersburg, Pa.

Weagly estimated that kettle donations are slightly ahead of last year's tally, but added that isn't cause for celebration.

"I think we're far from satisfied in the sense that the needs keep increasing," he said.

Kettle campaigns are important to the Salvation Army chapters because they fund a large part of their budgets, which pay for services such as soup kitchens, homeless shelters and food pantries.

It's an especially important issue this year because the demand for services is higher than ever, despite the economy, officials said.

Johnston said welfare-reform measures, which have moved thousands of area residents off public assistance, are creating a greater demand for services from private charitable agencies.Salvation Army officials said they remain hopeful there will be a last-minute rush of giving, aided by some good weather and generous shoppers.

Weagly urged people to give anything they can to the kettle drives.

"Even those pennies, nickels and dimes add up tremendously," he said.

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