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Economy affecting charities

January 03, 2009|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Change was not dropping into the red kettles of The Salvation Army this past Christmas at the same rate as in 2007, but Pat Hughes said the army will soldier on.

The recently completed Red Kettle campaign collected $112,246.14, down from about $141,000 last year, said Hughes, the office manager who has been with The Salvation Army headquarters in Franklin County for 20 years.

"We're blessed with what we receive ... and as Major (Duane Harris) would say, we have faith in the Lord," Hughes said. Harris and his wife, Maj. Kim Harris, head up the army in the county, she said.

Not long after, Hughes said Greg Breneman of Shippensburg, Pa., walked into the headquarters on Lincoln Way West and made a substantial cash contribution.


"I always give them something, sometimes in the kettle," Breneman said. "They helped me when I was in college in Findley, Ohio."

"The college was paying $1.60 an hour. They paid me $3 an hour," Breneman said of the army, which hired him to run a gym program for children. "They seem to do a lot of good things."

"There are many people who appreciate the army," Hughes said. "One gentleman said his grandfather always said he should put money in the kettle ... another said he would have had no Christmas without The Salvation Army."

Hughes said the campaign started a couple of days later than usual this year, but the same 18 or 20 stores still allowed ringers to set up kettles at their doors. While contributions were off nearly $30,000, however, an economy in recession means more people need help.

The final count of the number of meals served at the headquarters or delivered to homes on Christmas Day exceeded 600, Hughes said. That was the most ever, and more than 450 food baskets also were delivered during the holiday, she said.

"We're going to do what we have to do," said Thomas Reardon, executive director of the Franklin County Chapter of the American Red Cross. Fundraising for his organization is running close to the 2007 level, but the number of disaster responses has increased, as well as the costs of providing food, clothing and shelter to those displaced.

In the first six months of the 2007-08 fiscal year, donations to the Red Cross in the county were $54,267.93, compared to $53,291.87 in the first half of 2008-09, Reardon said.

"We have some great historic donors and they have been very generous," Reardon said. "What's really hurting us, as well as every organization, is our investments."

Investments have fallen by nearly $53,000 in recent months, Reardon said.

"The good news is that's long-term investments, and we don't pull from that unless we really need it," Reardon said of the investments, which are made up of trusts and endowments.

While the amount of money raised so far this year is about the same, the number of house fires and other emergencies requiring Red Cross assistance is up, Reardon said. In 2007-08, there were 28 disaster relief operations in the county. For the first half of 2008-09, there have been 20, he said.

"We really rely on our volunteers, and that's an area where we're really growing," Reardon said. In the past two years, the number of disaster volunteers has grown from about 10 to more than 60, he said.

Last week, Amy Hicks, executive director of the United Way of Franklin County, said fundraising was lagging in its goal of raising $800,000 by March 1. The Red Cross' fundraising is about one-third of its $295,000 budget, with the rest coming from training and services fees, blood services and the United Way, she said.

Other agencies are looking for a boost in United Way contributions in the next two months. Carol Sutton, executive director of Franklin County Head Start, said her organization is looking for $10,000 for a behavioral play program.

The program was cut in the 2008-09 budget, Sutton said, but about 60 of the 360 preschoolers served by Head Start have behavioral problems.

"I'm talking about aggressive behavior, destructive behavior," Sutton said.

"We got flat funding from the federal government," while health-care costs went up 40 percent, Sutton said.

"Our whole goal is to get them ready for kindergarten," Sutton said. If the United Way cannot come up with the funding, Sutton said she hopes the new presidential administration will.

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