Salvation Army bell ringers in Johnson County are bringing back less cash than last year from their largest fundraiser, which pays for about one-third of the organization’s annual budget.
A late Thanksgiving and unusually cold, snowy weather have contributed to a drop in donations. On Friday, the agency’s donations totaled $42,183 out of a $90,000 goal, according to Duke Haddad, executive director of development for the Indiana division of the Salvation Army.
Shoppers aren’t as likely to go out when it’s cold, so they don’t see the bell ringers standing outside or in the entrances of stores, such as Kroger and Walmart, with red kettles collecting donations, he said.
Bell ringers also had about a week less than usual to raise money this year due to Thanksgiving falling on Nov. 28. The donation drive typically runs from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve. More than 60 bell ringers, most of them volunteers, have been collecting money at 16 stores in the county this year, spokesman Mike Rowland said.
The Salvation Army offers programs including a food pantry and emergency assistance, such as payment of utility bills, from its Greenwood location, and 83 percent of donations go toward those services, Haddad said. The Greenwood location helped 1,666 people in 2012 and 1,724 so far in 2013.
During its bell-ringing campaign this year, the Salvation Army had about one less week than usual for fundraising; and cold, snowy weather kept shoppers away. Here are their numbers:
2013 fundraising goal: $90,000
Amount raised as of Thursday: $38,613, or about 43 percent of the goal
Number of bell ringers: About 60, most of them volunteers
People helped in 2013 by the organization’s food pantry and other services: 1,724
The kettles aren’t coming back empty, but some people walking by have told bell ringer Troy Stone of Greenwood that they don’t have money to give.
This week, he was standing just inside Kroger on Independence Drive in Greenwood, calling “Merry Christmas” to shoppers and letting children ring his bell. He wanted to help with fundraising because the Salvation Army’s food pantry and other assistance programs have helped him, he said.
About half the people who pass him drop some money in the bucket, but some march into the store ignoring his holiday greetings, Stone said.
Every day, he brings back a full kettle.
“I just try and smile and carry on,” he said.
The organization won’t reduce its services due to less funding but will have to find added donors throughout the rest of the year to make up for the loss if the goal isn’t met, Haddad said.
Typically, the county’s Salvation Army meets its fundraising goal or gets very close every year, he said.
He hopes people will stop and give throughout the final days of the donation drive to help the organization catch up, which would require donors doubling in about one week the amount they gave during the previous three weeks.
“They invest in their neighbors. That’s what it’s all about,” Haddad said.