Area Salvation Armies report fundraising slower than last year

Red Kettle campaigns in Linn and Johnson counties lagged in fundraising this holiday season, and one Salvation Army official thinks hurricanes and other natural disaster elsewhere in the United States may have been a contributing factor.

Capt. Tim North said that as of last week, the Salvation Army of Johnson County had raised about $200,000 of its $365,000 goal for its holiday campaign. He said that was behind last year?s mark and speculated that some people may have given their budgeted donations to disasters such as hurricanes instead of the Red Kettles.

?We?ve had a lot of natural disasters, so people have helped out there,? North said. ?If you set so much in your budget for donations, if you only have so much to go around, that?s understandable.?

The Salvation Army of Linn County was about $10,000 behind last year?s pace, said Lia Pontarelli, director of development and communications.

The Red Kettle campaign ended Saturday.

Christmas Eve was a major day for fundraising day last year. But this year, Christmas Eve fell on Sunday, the day after the campaign ended. Red Kettles are not staffed on Sundays, Pontarelli said.

?The income in our kettles has definitely slowed down,? Pontarelli said, adding that Christmas Eve last year brought in more than $17,000 for Linn County. ?So that?s a big chunk of money that we?re missing.?

Although the fundraising hasn?t been as strong as hoped, both counties reported strong volunteer interest in bell ringing.

?We?ve got a few more shifts covered this year? by volunteers, Pontarelli said. ?We never get enough, though. I think last year we ended around 32 percent of all the shifts were filled by volunteers so that leaves a big gap.?

North said bell ringers are essential to kettle donations. He said if there?s a kettle out but no ringer, it may bring in $10 all day, if that.

?People give when they hear that bell,? Pontarelli said.

Christmas fundraising is vital to Salvation Army operations for the next year. For Johnson County, North said this time of year makes up about 60 to 70 percent of its budget, while in Linn County it makes up 47 percent.

North said much of the money raised in Johnson County goes toward the Salvation Army?s weekday and Sunday meals. It also supports youth programming and emergency assistance, among other programs.

?Basically, when you?re putting money into a Red Kettle in the middle of December, you might be helping keep somebody?s lights on in the middle of June or you might be helping buy school supplies for a kid or make sure people are fed in April,? Pontarelli said.