CHAMPAIGN — The Salvation Army of Champaign County hopes local donors will dig a bit deeper this holiday season to help meet a higher goal for its annual Red Kettle fundraising campaign.
The organization is set to roll out its red kettles this morning at 22 retail locations with a goal of raising $456,000 by Christmas Eve — 6 percent more than its goal last year, says Salvation Army Corps Officer Major Tom McDowell.
Lots of bell-ringers are still needed to help meet that goal, he says.
The kettles need to be staffed Monday through Saturday, not including Thanksgiving, and the Salvation Army could use about 600 volunteers to get the job done.
"We need an army of volunteers," McDowell said.
This year's fundraising goal is higher, partly to help cover the loss of a $180,000 Veteran's Affairs grant the local Salvation Army has had to provide housing and transportation to veterans, he said.
Jenell Hardy, grants coordinator for the city of Urbana, said the city has been administering the VA grant for the Salvation Army, and there aren't any local agencies applying for it under the new VA contract that was offered.
The Salvation Army couldn't comply with some new requirements the VA added, McDowell said. But losing the money doesn't mean the expense of providing services for veterans will disappear, he adds.
The Salvation Army provides housing at its Stepping Stone Emergency Men's Shelter for as many as 24 veterans a night and will continue to provide that housing, he said.
The Salvation Army has also been providing transportation to veterans to appointments in Danville, McDowell said.
"The best ballpark figure I had is we were spending $500 a week on transportation," he said.
The transportation service may be picked up by others, McDowell said, but the shelter expense definitely remains.
The lost grant is one of two the local Salvation Army has been receiving through the VA, and the other, which helps with the cost of permanent housing for homeless veterans not in shelters, will continue, McDowell said.
"These grants are definitely needed, and the Salvation Army is committed to continuing to serve that population," he said.
The Red Kettle drive funds a variety of Salvation Army services, among them the emergency shelter, a food pantry for needy families, and job training, said Lori Jackson, assistant social services director.
"We're getting quite a few extra families," she said.
And not just extra families but larger, three-generation families with more grandparents raising children, Jackson said.
The Salvation Army accepts non-perishable food donations for its food pantry, but winds up buying a lot of what it stocks from the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, she said.
The organization also helps with a variety of other community needs, including help with utility bills, bus passes, emergency housing and clothing, she said.
"Everything we get from the kettle drive stays right here in Champaign County," she said.
There are two ways to sign up to be a bell-ringer, McDowell said.
Sign up online: http://www.ringbells.org
Toy drive also under way
URBANA — Here's a chance to make a difference for a child this holiday season.
The Salvation Army toy drive is now under way, with drop-off locations available for donated new, unwrapped toys and gifts for infants, children and teens throughout Champaign County.
Toys will be collected for children in at least 1,000 families in need in Champaign County, according to Carle, a sponsor of the annual toy drive along with WDWS/WHMS/WUIL radio.
The sponsors said their goal is to make sure all families registered for help through the Salvation Army are able to give gifts to their children.
Needy families have through the end of the day today to sign up for assistance with food and toys for Christmas through the Salvation Army.
Toys can be dropped off at the following places through Dec. 13:
— Carle Foundation Hospital, main lobby and breezeway, 611 W. Park St., U.
— Carle South Clinic lobby, 602 W. University Ave., U.
— Carle, 1701 W. Curtis Road, C.
— Carle, 1802 S. Mattis Ave., C.
— Carle, 1813 W. Kirby Ave., C.
— Carle, 1818 E. Windsor Road, U.
— Carle, 1001 Heather Drive, Mahomet.
— Carle, 1540 E. Grove, Rantoul.
— Health Alliance Medical Plans, inside Lincoln Square, 301 S. Vine Street, U.
— Curves at Round Barn, 1808-A Round Barn Road, C.
— WDWS/WHMS/WUIL, 2301 S. Neil St., C.
There will also be a drive-through toy collection all day Dec. 12 at Carle, 1802 S. Mattis Ave., C.
The collection will run from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. with Lite Rock 97.5's Mike in the Morning giving away prizes to early donors.
Toys, cash donations and gift cards will be accepted at this event.