| Neighborhoods

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Kettle drive falls short

Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
Lt. Susan Thwaite was checking the kettles at Walmart in file photo, on 12-08-12.

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Days before Christmas, local donors claimed nearly all the tags on the angel tree at the Salvation Army in Monessen, a promise of Christmas gifts for needy families.

However, the tags for one area family went unclaimed.

“So we pulled some things together and gave them gifts,” explained Susan Thwaite, co-commanding officer of the Salvation Army's Mon Valley Citadel.

But two days after the deadline to turn in gifts bought for the tree's “angels,” one woman returned with a bounty of gifts — everything the large family had requested.

“I was able to call that family and have them come and pick up the specific items they asked for,” Thwaite said. “The mother was in tears and shared that her husband was a boilermaker who lost his job. For the first time, they weren't able provide Christmas for their kids.

“It was really nice how God worked that out. We did the best we could, but God superseded that.”

Meeting the needs was a goal the Mon Valley Citadel kept in view even during tough times.

The Mon Valley Citadel of the Salvation Army's kettle campaign fell about $9,000 short of its goal of $75,000. In contrast, the local Salvation Army raised a record $73,000 in 2011.

The Western Pennsylvania Division of the Salvation Army raised $2,553,893, missing the regional goal by $270,000, according to agency spokeswoman Ginny Knor.

“I think the economy is so bad people are not able to give as much as in the past,” said Thwaite.

“There are more people needing and less people having. We're seeing more people come in like we've never seen before.”

Still, the Salvation Army was able to serve many in the Mid-Mon Valley. Thwaite said the agency provided 400 food baskets to families and services for 738 children in 2012.

“It took a lot of effort to pull everything together,” Thwaite said. “But no one was shorted because of the people's generosity.”

Thwaite said despite the shortfall in donations, the agency was able to provide the same level of service. She said their efforts, especially at Christmas, were aided by Trib Total Media's Operation Santa Claus along with toys donated by The Valley Independent's Christmas Cheer Club.

Students and faculty at Rostraver Elementary School again stuffed a bus with toys. Fifteen service organizations bought toys to assist the Salvation Army.

“Christmas is when we see greatest increase in need,” Thwaite said. “But our food pantry now serves 120 families and we're seeing new families come in each month and ask for help.”

In addition, the food pantry out of Westmoreland County Food Bank, directed by Mayor Mary Jo Smith, serves more than 500 people.

The Salvation Army also coordinates visits to local nursing homes. Gifts were given to 475 people. Students in the Cal U athletic training program gathered gifts, wrapped gifts and helped deliver them.

“It was really nice to see the generations working together,” Thwaite said.

The Salvation Army's campaign stretches the fiscal year from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30. The kettle campaign, which operates in November and December, raises about one-third of the Army's roughly $300,000 budget.

“We are really grateful to the community that we are permitted to do this,” Thwaite said. “They bring in all of these toys. What we are able to accomplish in a two-month period, it's just a miracle.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Mon Valley

  1. N. Charleroi man jailed in child sex case
  2. Mon Valley school districts wait out budget impasse
  3. Washington Township firefighters make child’s dream come true
  4. Gilmore wore many hats during successful careers
  5. 2 men nabbed in Donora drug sting
  6. 7 Up distributed from two Charleroi sites
  7. Monessen police, family looking for 17-year-old girl
  8. Director opposes increased cost of Ringgold project
  9. Dodd running for second seat on Ringgold School Board
  10. Probation sought in former Yough coach’s sex-texting case
  11. North Belle Vernon man charged with making threatening calls to borough police