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Late Thanksgiving diminishes jingle of Salvation Army kettles

| Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, 11:55 p.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Cadan Barnett (left), 6, and Nate-Tra Polk, 15, of East Liberty decorate a Christmas tree at the East Liberty Family Caring Center on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. The Salvation Army Western Division is $307,000 behind in its fundraising because the late start of Thanksgiving has pushed donations behind.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Cadan Barnett (left), 6, Nate-Tra Polk, 15, and Candice Barnett (right), 10, all of East Liberty, decorate a Christmas tree at the East Liberty Family Caring Center on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. The Salvation Army Western Division is $307,000 behind in its fundraising because the late start of Thanksgiving has pushed donations behind.

A late Thanksgiving gobbled up some of the time donors have to contribute to The Salvation Army, putting this year's campaign behind target, organizers say.

“Definitely, it hurts us because Thanksgiving was so much later in the year,” said Fran Brace, director of development for The Salvation Army Western Pennsylvania Division. “We hope people give generously when they see our kettles out in the community, knowing we're going to be out shorter.”

Thanksgiving was six days later than last year and the latest it's been since 2002. The late start means fewer days to collect money. The division provides $7 million in aid across Western Pennsylvania to people who need food, clothing, shelter and utility assistance.

Brace said the division raised $885,852 at this time last year compared to $577,949 this year. That's a decrease of $307,903 or 35 percent. The target for this year's campaign is about $2.7 million for the 28 counties in Western Pennsylvania.

“We're hoping to make it up, but it will be difficult,” she said.

Brace said division officials are considering having a “Christmas in July” campaign to compensate, but no decision has been made.

“It's warmer for volunteers to be out,” she said.

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank announced that it is extending its Fall FoodShare, traditionally its largest food and fundraising event of the season, to help families weather the tough winter months.

The event normally would end the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, or Nov. 27 this year, but it will run through this Thursday. The FoodShare, a collaboration with Giant Eagle, Citizens Bank and the Girl Scouts, allows shoppers to donate food at the grocery store or make a donation of $1, $2 or $5 to the food bank with their purchase at the cash register.

The drive raised a record $206,770 in cash donations, as of Friday, compared to a then-record $157,000 all of last fall, said Lisa Scales, CEO of the food bank.

“I attribute the increase to the fact that the community understands the serious problem of hunger and is willing to step up and make a donation,” she said.

Scales said the food bank needed to extend the campaign because of the community need. A year ago in November, the food bank served 640 families in two hours at its center on the South Side, compared to 904 on a similar day last month; 606 families in Homewood last year, compared to 821 last month; and 647 families in Duquesne in November 2012, compared to 857 families last month.

Scales said more families need help because on Nov. 1 a reduction in the federal food stamps program lowered the money available for residents in the region to buy food by $3 million a month.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828

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