It wasn't the merriest of Christmases for The Salvation Army in Lawrence.
The charity's 2005 Red Kettle fundraising campaign fell $41,051 short of last year's collection.
"I don't have a good explanation," said Wes Dalberg, co-administrator at The Salvation Army, 946 N.H.
Last year's campaign raised $100,912. This year's collections: $59,861.
Dalberg said the charity's other programs in northeast Kansas also have reported drops in collections.
"It's not just here, it's widespread," he said. "The only thing I know to attribute it to is donor fatigue."
Dalberg and his wife, Susan, arrived in Lawrence on Oct. 1. He said they weren't able to recruit enough bell ringers to accompany the kettles for the campaign, which began Nov. 11.
The Dalbergs replaced Rich and Judy Forney, who were transferred to the Kansas City area.
Bell ringer shortage
Having fewer bell ringers may explain some of the shortfall, Dalberg said. Still, other programs had their usual number of volunteers and collected less.
"We'll get an earlier start on lining up volunteers," he said. "We don't want this to happen again."
Though most of the program's 17 kettles had bell ringers on weekends, there were times during the week, Dalberg said, when only "five to seven were covered."
Dalberg said Journal-World and 6News reports that collections were down helped boost donations on Christmas Eve.
"We had a good day," he said. "Last year, Christmas Eve was very good; we collected $3,300. This year, we did $3,300, so we matched last year's."
To offset the shortfall, Dalberg said, The Salvation Army will trim its budget in either January or February.
"We'll look at some other ways to generate income," he said. "After that, we'll assess where we are and make adjustments."
It's unclear which of the program's services will be affected.
"We've not talked about it," Dalberg said. "This is something we'll have to study and take to the (governing) board."
Other charities doing well
Other Lawrence charities struggled to explain the drop in The Salvation Army's collections.
"Our Holiday Bureau did very well," said Paul Hunt, director of resources at the Ballard Community Center, referring to a countywide effort to arrange Christmas gifts for needy families.
"Our donors seemed genuinely excited - they're the ones who do the shopping, the gift wrapping and bring the gifts here," Hunt said. "If there was donor fatigue, I didn't hear much about it."
On Friday, local food pantries appeared to be adequately stocked.
"We're in much better shape than we were in November," Hunt said, referring to the pantry at the Ballard Community Center, 708 Elm St. "But supplies last a short period of time."
Other food pantries in Lawrence include those at:
¢ Pelathe Community Resource Center, 1423 Haskell Ave.
¢ Penn House, 1035 Pa.
¢ The Salvation Army, 946 N.H.
¢ ECKAN Community Action Agency, 1600 Haskell Ave.
"Food pantries are always in need, especially at this time of year when people struggle to pay their utility bills," said Richard Jackson, chief executive officer at ECKAN.
At the Lawrence Community Shelter, director Loring Henderson said this year's Christmas donations kept pace with last year's.
"We had our gift exchange," he said, "and everybody who signed up got a gift. We sponsored a breakfast and we had enough food donated for that."
Asked if the shortfall could reflect resistance to the city's approach to caring for the homeless, Henderson replied, "I don't think that conclusion can be drawn - I certainly hope not, since we're all in this together."
Dalberg, too, doubted the connection. "I've not had any indication from any part of the community to suggest that."
Unlike most Lawrence charities, The Salvation Army relies on money raised between mid-November and Christmas Eve to help fund its operations throughout the year.
"I don't want people to think we did not have a nice Christmas or that we encountered a bah-humbug attitude. We did fine and we are extremely grateful," Dalberg said.
"Now we'll have to see what effect this will have on our year-round budget," he said.
The Red Kettle campaign accounts for about 15 percent of The Salvation Army's annual budget.
The Red Kettle campaign is separate from The Salvation Army's ongoing effort to raise $3.5 million for a new facility near 19th Street and Haskell Avenue.