By Konstantine Fekos
The Salvation Army refuses to let the final bells toll despite kettles coming up short amidst national disasters and overall financial downturns.
For the past four to five years, the Western Pennsylvania Salvation Army Division has seen an unfortunate trend in the Red Christmas Kettle Campaign, missing goals on the regional and local levels, according to recent reports.
“What hurt us this year was that people were tired of giving,” said Capt. Robin Holmes, corps officer and pastor for Meadville’s Salvation Army. “Hurricane Sandy hurt us; everyone’s got their hand out right now and agencies need help because the need is so much greater.”
Meadville Salvation Army’s 2012 Kettle Drive raised just under $49,000 out of its initial $65,000 goal, a fraction of the division’s overall $270,000 deficit between western Pennsylvania’s estimated total of $2,553,839 and original goal of approximately $2,827,216.99.
Statewide reports mention similar deficits in surrounding Erie, Mercer and Warren counties with the most extreme differences in southwestern Pennsylvania around Allegheny County.
Division spokesperson Virginia Knor says the perfect storm of increased need and financial recession makes the bright red kettles lose some luster in the winter months.
“With the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy right before the (Kettle) Drive, people were experiencing donor fatigue,” she said, also factoring in the recent fiscal cliff nervousness which may have affected potential donations.
“We’re also seeing a lot more new people; some have been laid off or had their hours cut back,” Knor continued, noting many individuals facing sudden economic downturns still have families to support. “There are some very complicated cases involving transportation and expensive prescriptions.”
With the Kettle Campaign and general Salvation Army fundraising segmented according to zip code, every community facility is independent of one another. All funds raised in a given neighborhood support the means of that particular area’s needy in efforts to maximize donation impact.
“I want to stress that I’m very grateful for all the people donating and I still maintain this is the most generous community I’ve been in my entire life,” said Holmes, who understands even the most giving can only give so much.
“We’ll just have to wait and unfortunately remind people we’re still in need of assistance,” she added.
Meadville’s Salvation Army hopes to make up for the difference with other yearly fundraisers, including its annual food drive in August, although the fund gap isn’t always bridged.
“We’ll have to do some other things here, budget-wise,” said Holmes. “We’re pinching pennies pretty hard already, but we’ve got to pinch harder and take things case by case at this point.”
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.