Church volunteers discuss donations

A week can make a lot of difference when it comes to filling the red kettles of the Salvation Army.

National Kettle Day, when the Salvation Army’s annual Christmas fundraising drive commences, is always the day after Thanksgiving, said Major Marie Harris of the Salvation Army of Lock Haven. This year, however, Thanksgiving fell more than a week later than it did in 2012, and losing those days means the kettles are definitely feeling lighter.

“We’re about $9,000 down from last year’s total,” said Harris, which was $42,542 at this point last December.

Amy McGovern, of the Williamsport Salvation Army, said they have seen about a 30 percent drop in fundraising totals, or about $25,000 less than last year – an alarmingly high number.

She said she thinks that’s due to the later Thanksgiving date as well, but that the economy, which is “still very tight,” also has had an impact.

“People are still donating across the board, but it’s either in smaller amounts or to different programs, like food or toy programs,” she said.

The funds raised from the annual kettle campaign help area families and adults in need during the holiday, providing toys and other presents, a Christmas dinner and extra food. In the Lock Haven area alone, Harris said, the Salvation Army will be assisting 430 families and individuals.

With only seven days left until the campaign ends on Christmas Eve – and the need this year at an “all-time high” – Harris said they’re still looking for volunteers in Lock Haven.

“We’re trying to keep the kettles manned all the time, which is crucial to collecting money, but right now we still need people to do that,” said Harris.

There are open slots at various times this Thursday and Friday, she said, and Monday, Dec. 23, is completely open. They also are looking to fill spots on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, at the Kmart in Mill Hall.

“We can be flexible with volunteer times, we can take someone’s help whenever it’s convenient for them,” Harris said. “We’ve had people bring their families with them, or sometimes it’s a business that has its employees come down and rotate hours during the day.”

Collection hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. Individuals interested in helping to fill these open spots can contact the Salvation Army of Lock Haven, 119 E. Church St., Lock Haven.

The American Rescue Workers has been conducting their annual fundraising as well, the Christmas Chimney project, which got underway on Nov. 7 and ends on Christmas Eve.

John Metzger, coordinator of the project, said that the last few days have been slow in terms of donations, but that it’s probably due to the weather.

“The snow really hurts, because even if people are out shopping, they’re in a hurry to get home and might not notice the donation boxes,” he said, adding that days like last Saturday, when most people stayed home, really affect fundraising.

Still, totals are solid, he said, and they anticipate raising about as much as they did last year. As of the end of the day Monday, they had raised $33,817.

“We’re hoping to raise $45,000 before the drive ends, which sounds like a lot, but with the good people of Lycoming county and the surrounding area, we think we can make it,” Metzger said.

The Christmas Chimney campaign raises money for the American Rescue Workers’ annual Christmas Outreach program, which includes a multitude of services for those in need.

They help “thousands of people” every year with a Christmas dinner, toys for children, and Christmas baskets, said Metzger.

Christmas baskets include everything needed for a holiday dinner, even a turkey. The funds are also used to host a ham dinner at the ARW headquarters on Elmira Street in Williamsport on Christmas Day, when toys for children are handed out.

The Christmas Chimney program has 10 collections sites this year: the Lycoming Mall in Muncy; Dollar General in South Williamsport on W. Southern Ave.; Dollar General in Montoursville on N. Loyalsock Ave.; Dollar General in Hughesville on Peterman Lane; Dollar Tree in Williamsport on E. Third St.; Ben Franklin Store and Pharmacy in Clarkstown on Route 442; TJ’s Market in Hughesville on N. Railroad St.; Wal-Mart in Lewisburg on AJK Blvd.; and at the ARW thrift store in Williamsport at Rose and Fourth streets.