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Salvation Army hopes for more jingle in the kettles

Monday, December 20, 2010

By Sean Barron


When you’re out and about this week and pass a Salvation Army bell ringer next to a red kettle, take an extra moment to make a small contribution.

That’s the challenge Maj. Lurlene-Kay Johnson is hoping Mahoning County residents will take on as the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign winds down.

Johnson, the organization’s area coordinator pro tem, said the campaign, which got under way around Thanksgiving, has raised a little more than $200,000 in the county. The effort, however, is about $30,000 short compared with last year and needs to come up with $300,000 by Friday to fund the agency’s programs and operations for next year, Johnson explained Sunday at the agency’s Glenwood Avenue location on the city’s South Side.

Nevertheless, the goal can be reached if each person in the county who passes a red kettle donates $1, she noted, adding that kettles are at area Walmart, Giant Eagle and other big-box and smaller stores, as well as numerous restaurants and businesses.

“You make most of your money about 10 days before Christmas,” observed Johnson, of Cleveland, who came to the Valley in mid- November to assist with local fund-raising efforts.

Most of the money will be used to cover the Salvation Army’s distribution costs and to give out toys and food vouchers, she continued. It also will go toward social-service programs for 2011 that will allow the organization to continue to help eligible people with clothing, food and utility costs, Johnson said.

The Salvation Army works in conjunction with a variety of other agencies, individuals and faith-based organizations, Johnson noted, adding that she’s thankful to the Toys for Tots program for donating most of the toys.

The Salvation Army also is assisting many more part-time workers as well as those who lost jobs and have had to settle for minimum-wage positions, she said.

“People who never thought they’d need help from the Salvation Army now need help,” Johnson said.

Contributions are down this year largely because of the tough economy and the sudden start of winter.

In cold weather, many people get to their vehicles as quickly as possible and pass by the kettles, Johnson explained.

Another factor was the October death of Capt. Keith Campbell, who was the area’s Salvation Army coordinator, she said.

Johnson expressed confidence that the goal will be met by week’s end and praised Valley residents for their generosity and volunteerism.

“This community is so generous, and they have been wonderful volunteers for us.” she said. “I want the community to know we’re grateful for all they’ve done.”