CHAMPAIGN – The Salvation Army has a lot of ground to make up this year in its annual fund-raising efforts featuring the iconic bell-ringers and their kettles.
The Christian social service organization is without the biggest source of donations to the kettle campaign – Target stores. Earlier this year, the Minneapolis-based Target Corp. announced that it was instituting a no-soliciting policy at all of its stores, including the one at 2102 N. Prospect Ave., C.
"Losing Target was a big blow. That was our best place. My understanding is that it was a corporate decision to change the image of their stores and as a result they adopted the no-solicitation policy," said Maj. John Turner of The Salvation Army in Champaign. "But we are still hopeful that at some point in the future Target will change its mind."
Target has long tried to differentiate itself from competitors Wal-Mart and Kmart by presenting an upscale, trendy image.
Nor is Target alone in having a no-soliciting policy. Others include Best Buy, Circuit City (which is doing a test with The Salvation Army this year in a select market), Meijer and several other nationwide or regional stores.
"We don't have that many locations in that North Prospect area – and that's where all the shoppers are," Turner said, adding that The Salvation Army will have bell-ringers and kettles in the area at the Champaign Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, as well as Dick's Sporting Goods and K's Merchandise.
"We'll have 23 locations all over the place, including two in Mahomet, two in Rantoul, one in St. Joseph, and all the rest are in the Champaign-Urbana-Savoy area," he said.
Besides the loss of Target, The Salvation Army has to deal with the closing of the Super Kmart in Champaign, which was also a large source of donations.
"We have our challenges this year," Turner added. "And our fund-raising goal is higher this year at $270,000. Last year we raised $251,000. We don't really know how we'll make up for the loss of Target. We'll work our other places as best we can and hope that people find us."
The annual appeal during the holiday season is The Salvation Army's largest fund-raising effort of the year. Money goes to support its homeless shelter and social services, blankets for the elderly, food for the needy, toys for children at Christmas and many other services.
Bell-ringers and the Christmas kettle have a long tradition at The Salvation Army, which traces its origins to 1878 in England. The kettle got its start several years later, in 1891, when an unnamed Salvation Army officer in San Francisco wanted to provide a Christmas dinner to the area's poor but had no money to pay for it. He got the idea of putting a large soup kettle in a conspicuous spot at the Oakland ferry landing.
The idea worked like a charm, and the notion of using a pot hung on a metal stand for charitable contributions spread rapidly throughout The Salvation Army from coast to coast.
"The Champaign-Urbana community has been a great supporter of The Salvation Army over the years, and I expect that will be the case this year," Turner said. "I'm confident that people will continue to support us. They know what The Salvation Army is all about, what we do and the services we provide.
"For the people who were used to making a donation at the Target store, we hope they find us and drop their money in a kettle somewhere else or mail us a check."
People who would like to send a contribution to The Salvation Army can mail a check to: The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 618, Champaign, IL 61824-0618. In addition, online contributions can be made by going to www.salvationarmyusa.org.and clicking on the "donate now" link. To make sure the contribution goes to The Salvation Army in Champaign, fill out the field in the "specific use" category.
You can reach Kirby Pringle at (217) 351-5222 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org