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Alle-Kiski Valley's red kettle campaigns exceed goals

| Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, 12:22 a.m.

Although the Salvation Army's red kettle drive collected more dollars than last year, the 28-county Western Pennsylvania division fell short of its goal — mostly in Allegheny County.

But that wasn't the picture for most of the worship and service centers in the Alle-Kiski Valley.

Locally, collection goals were exceeded by units in Brackenridge, Vandergrift, Butler and Kittanning. The New Kensington unit collected 97 percent of its goal.

Salvation Army's Western Pennsylvania spokeswoman Virginia Knor said the Allegheny Valley worship and service center, at 917 Brackenridge Ave., Brackenridge, had a goal of $130,000 but was able to raise $167,637.50.

Capt. Rickie Armour, who heads the Brackenridge unit, said the unit's fund-raising was a product of hard work by volunteers. He encourages them to take part in many of the unit's daily programs and many are involved when red kettle time approaches.

Capt. Henry Thibault said his Butler unit, which serves the southeastern part of Butler County, has a resource that helped the unit surpass its $82,209 goal by $2,500.

“We have a soup kitchen, and many of the people receiving service want to give back and they ring the bells for the red kettle campaign,” he said.

Even so, five previous red kettle locations declined to participate in 2012.

“The other locations had to work even harder,” Thibault said, adding that it's “easy to understand why. Everyone knows the economy is tough.”

The Kittanning unit exceeded its $25,000 goal by collecting $32,134.

“They really did well,” Knor said. “That was even $6,905 more than in 2011.”

In Kittanning, Lt. Amber Imhoff, who with husband Lt. Jason Imhoff, started their assignment in June, had planned on kicking off their red kettle drive on the borough's light-up night.

“But a water emergency canceled the ceremony a half-hour before it was supposed to start,” she said.

“We took a water buffalo and our mobile canteen and set up downtown and served coffee, tea and hot chocolate to about 500 people,” she said.

Most stores are privately owned and were open to having a kettle there. The unit added some that hadn't been there in 2011. It also paid some people minimum wage to fill in for volunteer bell ringers, she said.

“We had a very blessed season this year,” Imhoff said.

Knor said the New Kensington worship and service center narrowly missed its goal but the Kiski Valley unit it directs surpassed its financial goal. New Kensington's unit collected 97 percent of its $66,870 goal, Knor said.

At the same time, the Kiski Valley unit had a goal of $30,994.99 and it collected $31,546.11, she said.

“The people of the Valley are very special people,” said Capt. Alvie Carter of the New Kensington and Kiski Valley units.

“The face of need has changed. These days we have working people with both mother and father working, but not earning enough. And we have individuals. We're just a vessel for helping people ... with physical and spiritual needs,” he said.

Knor said some of the division's deficit is probably a reflection of recent events. Knor said the charity's local fund-raising leading up to Christmas may have been affected by Superstorm Sandy, which devastated parts of the East Coast.

“People sometimes experience donation fatigue,” Knor said.

The charity's 2012 Western Pennsylvania goal was a little less than $2.83 million; it raised about $2.55 million.

The Salvation Army took in nearly $2.5 million in 2011, shy of the nearly $3 million goal.

Across the division, 24 of the 39 units fell short of their $2,827,217 goal by $270,000. The money is spent where it's collected.

“The Salvation Army is grateful for every gift, no matter the size, and we are truly humbled and appreciative of the generosity. But we would still warmly welcome any additional support,” said Maj. William H. Bode, divisional commander of the Salvation Army's Western Pennsylvania chapter.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com. Trib Total Media reporter Tony LaRussa contributed to this report.

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