The Meridian Star
By Brian Livingston
The Red Kettle Campaign donations may be down but Friday the giving was up as Salvation Army of Meridian officials and volunteers handed out bags filled with toys and bicycles.
"This really helps me to give my kids a complete, joyful Christmas," said Stacy Tate, the mother of twin 8-year-old girls. "I'm fortunate that my girls are really grateful and aren't picky about their gifts. I just have to make sure they each get the same number of toys otherwise I will hear about it."
Salvation Army Maj. Walter Strong was watching as volunteers from the youth organization from First Presbyterian gathered up the bags and rolled out the bikes. He said this year the Salvation Army that covers Kemper, Neshoba, Newton, and Lauderdale counties is providing toys for more than 1,000 children from 498 families.
While watching all the activity, Strong said although the Red Kettle Campaign is behind so far this holiday season, he is confident the donations will pick up.
"We are short of our goal thus far but hopefully we can have a good run through the rest of the season," Strong says. "The Red Kettle Campaign not only helps us through the holiday season but it sets the pace for the year because many of our programs are funded through these donations."
In 2012, The Salvation Army of Meridian’s Red Kettle Campaign raised more than $115,562. Strong says, so far this year, only $47,407 has been raised, well below what was expected.
Strong said he believes the decline was partially due because Thanksgiving came a week later on the calendar, and bell ringers were not allowed to ring at all locations until after Thanksgiving.
"Five fewer bell ringing days put us behind," Strong said. "Donations coming in between now and the end of the year are critically important to The Salvation Army’s ability to meet needs locally."
Strong said Kettle gifts stay in the community where the money is donated and help provide meals and shelter for families in need.
But on Friday, Strong and the volunteers were concentrating on giving as many children as possible a memorable Christmas morning.
"We have been working towards this day for months," Strong said. "It is satisfying to us to know we are making a difference in the lives of so many children. That's our driving force."
The Salvation Army is encouraging the public to donate to the Red Kettles found on street corners, in malls, and at local retailers, or online at www.salvationarmyalm.org in order to make up the shortfall.
Donations can also be mailed to The Salvation Army Alabama-Louisiana-Mississippi Division, P.O. Box 4857, Jackson, MS 39296, or called into 1-800-SAL-ARMY.