Salvation Army launches kettle drive
MONESSEN - Thanksgiving and Christmas are the seasons for giving thanks and just giving - period.
For the Salvation Army, the term "just giving" has never had a truer ring.
With so many distressed families facing the holidays with uncertainty, the Salvation Army is doing its best during a season of uncertainty of its own.
The Salvation Army kicked off its holiday kettle campaign a few days ago amid economic conditions that are less than favorable for fund-raising, giving rise to uncertainty about the program's success.
The campaign will run through Dec. 24.
In the past, the Salvation Army has placed kettles in as many as 13 local locations.
However, because of a shortage of volunteers to ring the bells, and some other factors, Capt. Chris Stephens said the number of kettle sites dwindled to "about six or seven" this season.
Still, the Salvation Army's goal was raised from $40,000 a year ago to $50,000 this year.
"Fifty thousand dollars sounds like a lot of money, but we have so many expenses and we're trying to stretch our money as far as we can," Stephens said.
"If we hit our goal, that not only means we're providing Christmas for everyone within our vicinity, but we're also able to help with utilities, rent, food and various other needs for people who are truly in need financially.
"It also helps with our programs for youths and adults. All the money we raise is used locally."
Fewer kettles isn't the only problem hindering the Salvation Army's daunting goal of trying to help everyone in need.
Fewer businesses are collecting toys this year for the Army's Treasures for Children Program.
Plus, the kettles are taking in less money than in past years, especially in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy.
Throw in a strong possibility that one of the Army's support groups - The United Way - may not reach its goal this year, and it is easy to see why the Army's task is so challenging.
Still, Stephens said he is optimistic.
"We're hoping that people will have big hearts this season when they realize that there are a lot of people in need," he said.
"Some of the businesses which help us, such as Wal-Mart, have helped over and above what we could ever expect."
Stephens noted that while K-Mart, The Valley Independent, Long John Silver's and McDonald's assist in collecting toys for the Treasures for Children Program, the initiative lost a major contributor when the Ames department store closed.
"There are some schools which also do food drives for Thanksgiving and Christmas, which really helps out a lot," he said.
Stephens said that while there aren't as many bells ringing this year, he hopes the kettle drive will go over big.
"We've tried to locate the kettles in high-traffic areas," he said. "The sound of the bells during the holidays is almost an American pastime. We're hoping the shoppers come through for us."
Stephens said volunteers to man kettles are still needed. Shifts are scheduled 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 4 to 9 p.m. The contact person for the kettle drive is Jennifer Watkins (724) 747-3206.
He said several of the bell ringers have noticed the kindness of Mid-Mon Valley shoppers.
"A lot of times people will offer the bell ringers food or drinks," said Stephens. "We just discourage them from accepting any money."
Save that for the kettles.