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Kittanning Salvation Army raises red-kettle goal by 12%

| Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, 1:41 a.m.
Veronica Calbro, 19, of Kittanning, volunteers as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army outside Sprankles Market.
Friday December 6, 2013
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Veronica Calbro, 19, of Kittanning, volunteers as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army outside Sprankles Market. Friday December 6, 2013

Despite a shortened season, the Kittanning Salvation Army raised its goal for the annual Red Kettle Campaign by 12 percent.

The Kittanning Salvation Army raised its goal by $3,000 this year, marking the first time in a decade the organization increased its annual $25,000 goal, according to Lt. Amber Imhoff.

“The last couple of years we managed to keep the goal, even though our budget went up,” Imhoff said. “We thought if we can raise $25,000 with the red kettles, we can definitely raise the rest over the course of the year through other means.

“But this year, we're behind last year because, technically, we lost days during the holiday season this year.”

As of last Friday, the Kittanning Salvation Army is approximately $5,000 behind where it was at the same time last year, Imhoff said.

Typically, the Kittanning Salvation Army begins ringing its bells a week before Thanksgiving, when Kittanning Borough kicks off the holiday season with Light Up Night, Imhoff said.

This year, Thanksgiving was six days later than last year and the latest it's been since 2002, and the late start means fewer days to collect money.

Much like the Kittanning Salvation Army, the Salvation Army's Western Pennsylvania Division is behind in its goal due to the shortened holiday season. The division provides $7 million in aid across Western Pennsylvania to people who need food, clothing, shelter and utility assistance.

“We hope people give generously when they see our kettles out in the community, knowing we're going to be out shorter,” said Fran Brace, director of development for The Salvation Army Western Pennsylvania Division.

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.

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

In addition to the shortened holiday, Imhoff said there aren't many shopping destinations in Armstrong County, which limits the kettles' presence.

“There aren't a lot of stores where we can stand,” Imhoff said.

The Salvation Army posts seven red kettles in Armstrong County from Tuesday through Saturday — at Sprankles Neighborhood Market in Kittanning, at two locations at the West Kittanning Foodland, the Ford City Foodland, Big Lots in East Franklin, and at both doors at the East Franklin Wal-Mart.

If the organization has enough volunteers on Fridays, it posts kettles at Klingensmith's Drug Stores in Kittanning and Ford City, Imhoff added.

If need be, sometimes the organization pays minimum wage to some of its bell ringers, just to make sure kettles are manned, Imhoff said.

“It's next to impossible to find volunteers during the week,” she said. “But we're happy we can pay them minimum wage, because for a lot of our bell ringers, that means they'll be able to make their house payment and have a Christmas.”

It costs approximately $410,000 per year to keep the Kittanning Salvation Army operating and providing service, with the Red Kettle Campaign accounting for 6 percent of its income, Imhoff said.

The budget covers the costs of weekly church services, four days of youth programming per week, the emergency food pantry, community feeding programs, heating assistance and other needs that may pop up throughout the year, she said.

“Our bells ring around Christmas time because that's when most people think about giving back,” Imhoff said. “But our needs are ongoing throughout the year.”

Imhoff said she is confident the Kittanning Salvation Army will meet its goal this year, since last year, it exceeded its goal by about $7,000.

“We had a wonderful Christmas season last year, because our community really came out and blessed us,” Imhoff said, smiling. “God really moved in our community, because last year, there were a lot of Salvation Army locations struggling to make their goals, or that didn't make their goal.

“This community is like no other — people in Armstrong County care about each other, and you don't find too many communities where people genuinely care about one another.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or

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