With donations lagging this year, local Salvation Army leaders have less than 10 days to collect $40,000 and reach their fundraising goal for the annual Red Kettle campaign.
This year’s campaign, which launched the day before Thanksgiving and is set to end Christmas Eve, had just hit its halfway mark as of Thursday afternoon. So far, bell ringers have raised approximately $40,000 of the campaign’s $80,000 goal.
Lt. Andy Wheeler of the Salvation Army said the Douglas County chapter isn’t “unique” in its fundraising struggles. Salvation Army branches across the country have reported lagging campaign totals in recent years, Douglas County included, he said.
“We’ve just been having a hard time finding people to cover all that we need,” Wheeler said. “At some point in time we’d like to have 2,000 hours of volunteer coverage at the kettles. That would be fantastic.”
Wheeler, who joined the Douglas County office earlier this year, said the local branch has struggled lately in recruiting volunteers to staff its famous red kettles. While participation has gone up slightly this season, Wheeler said it’s not enough to encourage the kind of robust giving needed to meet campaign goals.
“We’ve had a lot of empty kettles — kettles that were unmanned or unstaffed — out there. So, that might be part of the reason we’re struggling,” Wheeler said, later explaining that people might not feel as comfortable putting their money into an unsupervised kettle.
Unseasonably warm temperatures, combined with fundraising pushes for recent natural-disaster relief efforts, may have also contributed to this year’s shortfall, Wheeler said.
If the Salvation Army doesn’t reach its $80,000 fundraising goal by Christmas Eve, local officers may have trouble maintaining programs throughout the next year. Among those that could see cuts, Wheeler said, are the Salvation Army’s emergency food pantry and its meal service, which provides around 300 meals a week year-round to Douglas County residents in need.
In the meantime, Wheeler said he would “love” to see a local business help jumpstart the Red Kettle campaign with a large donation. He also understands folks are less likely to carry cash with them these days, and encourages online donations at www.lawrence.salvationarmy.us. Donations can also be mailed to the Salvation Army of Douglas County at 946 New Hampshire St.
“For us to be at the halfway mark, I feel like it’s good news,” Wheeler said of this year’s campaign. “ … Some folks are only up 30 percent, so I think we’re OK. We just need a good, strong push from this amazing community to help us get to that 100 percent mark.”
If you’re interested in being a bell ringer, there’s still time. The Salvation Army is looking to fill two-hour shifts right up until 8 p.m. Christmas Eve, though Wheeler suggests giving coordinators a few days’ notice when signing up.
For more information, visit www.lawrence.salvationarmy.us or call 843-4188.