New Castle News

December 11, 2013

Christmas 2013: Kettle campaign lagging behind

Dan Irwin
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The kettle’s on, but dinners could still be missed.

That’s the situation facing the Salvation Army of Western Pennsylvania, as donations to its iconic holiday Red Kettle campaign are lagging behind in 35 of the 39 communities served by its regional facilities.

That includes New Castle, where contributions to date are nearly $20,000 behind where they should be at this point in the campaign, according to Capt. Geoff Swires.

“We have to be optimistic; we’re counting on God to bless us,” Swires said. “This is my third year (in New Castle), and we’ve made our goals each of the first two years, thanks to the generosity of our community.

“When you stop and give at a kettle, the money stays in the community and it’s used to fund all our projects for the entire year. This is the only place I know where the change you give today can help feed people in June and July.”

According to Major William H. Bode, the Salvation Army’s divisional commander for western Pennsylvania, a later-than-normal Thanksgiving is a prime reason why the initiative is off the pace.

“Most kettle campaigns aren’t out in full force until Thanksgiving week,” he said. “And since the holiday fell on Nov. 28 this year, that means we have a start six days later than last year. This season is the latest it’s been since 2002.”

New Castle’s Salvation Army launched its campaign Nov. 9, nearly three weeks prior to Thanksgiving, with a goal of $70,000 (up from $62,000 in 2012). However, Swires noted, the late holiday still is having a local impact.

“We did have some local sites going early,” Swires explained, “but by national agreement with Wal-Mart, our Kettle Campaign begins on Black Friday. And until this year, we had the same arrangement with Giant Eagle, although this year for the first time Giant Eagle allowed us to be out on the day before Thanksgiving. That worked out great, because we took in over $1,000 on just that one day.

“But we have two stands at Wal-Mart and one at each Giant Eagle on Butler Avenue and Wilmington Road, and with Black Friday being a week later than last year, that’s four major places that we didn’t have until the last couple days of November.”

Of course, folks who do the bulk of their Christmas shopping online may never see a kettle at all. However, they still can donate to the campaign by logging on to www.onlineredkettle.org. Any money contributed in this fashion still will support local Salvation Army projects, as it is distributed based on the donor’s zip code.

There’s also a mobile app through which people can make a $10 donation to the campaign by texting GIVEPGH to 80888.

On the bright side, Swires noted, “more volunteers than in previous years” have signed up for bell-ringing duty, and that could translate into a late surge in donations as “contributions always pick up slightly the week before Christmas, when more organizations usually sign up to volunteer.”

Still, Swires would be happy to hear from any individuals, churches or groups who are interested in helping out. All it takes is a call to the Salvation Army at (724) 652-7921.

(Email: d_irwin@ncnewsonline.com)