WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WREX) — The start of Christmas means the end of The Salvation Army's "red kettle" campaign, and while thousands of people donated, the group fell short of its fundraising goal.
For the last 131 years, The Salvation Army has been helping those in need across Winnebago County.
"Any way we can help," Major Mark Martsolf, the Winnebago County coordinator for The Salvation Army, says.
Around the holidays, The Salvation Army collects donations in three primary ways: through its iconic red kettle campaign, a direct mail campaign and gifts in kind. This year, as part of its gifts in kind, The Salvation Army took in over 6,000 toys at its annual 12 Hours of Salvation Toy Drive, as well as through gifts separately donated. However, its red kettle campaign is lagging behind.
"The kettle goal, we are significantly behind in our $400,000 approach to raise those funds," Major Martsolf says.
The group is about $150,000 behind as of Christmas Eve afternoon. That's when we hit the road with Major Martsolf to collect the kettles.
He says the under-performance of the kettles is because Thanksgiving landed on the calendar later this year, which gave bell-ringers only 44 days of ringing.
"That translated dollar-wise into about a $30,000 difference from last year at this time," Major Martsolf explains.
But bell-ringers worked hard Christmas Eve trying to make up the difference.
"I just like giving back," Bell-ringer William Evans says. "I've been blessed so, it's only right I help other people out."
With 38 kettle sites in the county there's always hope for a Christmas miracle. It came in the form of an anonymous donation from a local Chinese restaurant. Two five-gallon soy sauce buckets filled to the brim with change. The buckets were so heavy Major Martsolf struggled to lift it, but did so with a smile on his face.
"That's pretty cool," Major Martsolf says. "They clean out their fountain at the restaurant and they decided we want to give it to charity."
While it wasn't enough to make up for the season's shortfall, it's a gesture that reassures The Salvation Army that the season of giving is still alive and well.
Though the red kettle campaign is over, you can still help The Salvation Army reach its goal. You can mail a check to The Salvation Army at P.O. Box 4159 Rockford, Illinois 61110.