CHAMPAIGN — The Salvation Army of Champaign County will roll out its red kettles for the holiday season at 11 a.m. Monday with a fundraising goal a bit more modest than last year's.
This year's goal amount will be announced at a Champaign Rotary Club meeting set for noon Monday, said Corps Officer Major Tom McDowell.
Last year's red kettle drive didn't reach its $456,000 goal, bringing in a total $404,000. So this year's goal amount will be lower than last year's goal — but higher than what was actually raised, McDowell said.
The red kettle campaign has a long history in Champaign County and means a lot to the organization, the major said.
"We've looked to the public since 1891 with the kettles, and we could not be where we are without that Christmas campaign," McDowell said.
Like last year, the Salvation Army plans to have bell ringers at 22 locations throughout Champaign County this year, and a lot of volunteers are going to be needed to keep the kettles staffed through the holiday season, McDowell says.
As for last year's financial goal falling short, he said, "I think the economy was a big factor."
With fewer dollars raised last year than the organization hoped for, McDowell said, some programs weren't expanded and capital needs were put on hold.
On the list of building needs are roofs on two of the organization's buildings.
The roofs on the Red Shield Center at 2212 N. Market St., C and its church and community center building at 502 N. Prospect Ave., C, both have been patched — but really need to be replaced, McDowell said.
The estimate to replace the North Market Street building roof came in at $240,000, and as for the other building, "I haven't even had that one priced yet," McDowell says.
Also on the delayed list is adding a staff member to anchor the volunteer staff at the organization's food pantry, which would help serve more people during the hours it's open, he says.
With the recent cut in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) benefits in effect, McDowell said, he expects demand on the food pantry to grow in the months ahead.
The organization also would like to be able to expand community center programs, which currently include an after-school drop-in and character-building programs that could use either more staff, more volunteers or both, McDowell said.
"We'd like to serve more kids," he adds.
Not meeting the goal last year also meant the Salvation Army had to dig into reserves to transport its shelter residents who are veterans to medical appointments at the VA Illiana Health Care System in Danville, he said.
While the red kettle campaign is a fundraiser, McDowell said, it's important for people to know there are other ways to give to the Salvation Army if they can't give financially.
Donated clothing, furniture and home items go directly to those in need in the community or are sold at local Salvation Army stores to raise money for the organization, he says.
Volunteers can sign up to ring bells at red kettles for as little as two-hour shifts, and help is also needed packing groceries in the food pantry and answering phones, McDowell said.
All gifts — money, volunteer time, food and used good donations — are appreciated, he says.
"God is going to provide one way or another," he adds.
Volunteers can sign up online to ring bells at http://www.ringbells.org