Marietta Salvation Army sees decline in donations

Photo by Erin O’Neill Volunteers Wyatt Bishman, left, Tara Wolfe, center, and Preston Hoff, seated right, sort through donations of clothes at the Salvation Army, 136 Front St. in Marietta. Bishman, 10, was helping as he waited to go to school. Marietta City Schools were on a two-hour delay Wednesday.

MARIETTA — While they were short of their goal for the red kettle campaign again this year, a last-minute generous donation helped make it possible for the Salvation Army in Marietta to continue to do the good work they do for the community.

This year and last, the goal was to raise $75,000 and, according to Capt. Aaron Moore, they came in just below that with $72,399.

“We lost Food 4 Less this year and we didn’t have another place to make that up, that was about $5,000 we lost,” he said. “But we did budget for more paid bell ringers before Food 4 Less closed so we actually saved money on payroll.”

Roughly 22 individual volunteers and 30 paid workers kept the bells ringing at area stores like Kroger, Walmart and Kmart. The numbers of volunteers and paid bell ringers dwindled as the season wound down, according to Moore, because so many didn’t anticipate the cold and so the number being paid actually brought the campaign in at $2,500 more than what they had budgeted.

While the total red kettle donations were down about $1,000 from 2016 — even with the $5,000 loss from Food 4 Less — a donation of $1,300 came in at the last minute from an unexpected place.

“Witten Farm auctioned off a quarter of a cow at the River City Farmers Market and sold tickets and Bonnie Witten came by yesterday to give us a check,” Moore said. “This is our fourth Christmas here and it never fails to amaze me how generous this community is.”

Red kettle donations, toy drives and private donations from individuals helped the Salvation Army to provide Christmas for many area youth. Even though only about 75 percent of the Angel Tree tags came back in fulfilled, area businesses, civic groups and others took on the job of making sure every wish was met.

“How we did (this holiday season) even compared to some other Salvation Army (chapters) in the area, talking with those officers, we know that we were very blessed, because they are struggling,” said Wanessa Moore who, along with her husband and a part-time office worker, are the only paid staff.

While official numbers for 2017 won’t be out until February, the national Salvation Army organization reported a fundraising record in 2016, raising $150 million. However, according to an article from The Associated Press in December, the organization is working to find an updated version of the kettle that makes helping others more convenient. Different groups around the country have tried Square, a smartphone app to make debit cards acceptable, as well as credit card machines. But the Salvation Army says transactions the old-school kettles encourage through fast and anonymous donations are tough to replicate with noncash payments.

“We are grateful to the Marietta community coming alongside the Salvation Army for a successful finish to the red kettle campaign,” said Major Larry Ashcraft, divisional commander for the Salvation Army Southwest Ohio and Northeast Kentucky Division. “The contributions there will go beyond the bells and help those in need all year long.”

Ashcraft noted that the division was currently down slightly from last year as a comprehensive total raised (4 to 5 percent), but that the generosity of Marietta and its community was “wonderful and very needed” to assist those who will come to the Salvation Army for help in 2018.

Fears early on in the red kettle campaign had the Moores thinking ahead to having to make cuts; thankfully, they will be able to budget to keep the organization going to provide clothing, a food pantry, community meals and more.

“We own the building, thank God, but we have gas, electric, water, internet … all those things keep us going so we can keep helping others,” Aaron Moore said.

Typically, the number of clothing and food donations are down after the holidays and through June so coming close to the goal this year helps to keep the organization in operation.

“As we say, need knows no season,” Moore said.

To donate to the Salvation Army, call 740-373-4043.