DeKALB – Plunging temperatures motivated Charles Gaspar to make the drive from rural Lee County for an eight-hour shift Monday of bell ringing for The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign.
He was bundled in a heavy coat and thick scarf at the DeKalb Walgreens on Lincoln Highway.
“I know that when the weather gets rough, more people are in need – they’re stretched,” Gaspar said. “So all the more to see that The Salvation Army and other services are able to give when times are most dire.”
Today is the final day of bell ringing for the Red Kettle campaign. Volunteers have been staffing the red kettles since November, but local Salvation Army officials worry that a shortened holiday season and bad weather have knocked the annual fundraiser off pace, while local need soars.
“We’re anticipating that we might raise about $10,000 or so less [than last year], and the weather being this cold hasn’t helped,” DeKalb service officer Capt. Michael Cho said. “The fact that we had less Red Kettle days [contributed], because Thanksgiving happened later in the year, and some locations were only able to open after Thanksgiving.”
Last year the effort raised about $80,000, all of which stays with the local post to fund its food pantry and emergency assistance programs.
“With the money that we raise during the Christmas season, 100 percent of it stays in DeKalb County, and we use for it a lot of programs,” Cho said.
A goal of $70,000 was set for this season. The effort had raised $58,000 through Thursday, which was the most recent count, Cho said Monday. By the same time last year, $68,000 had been donated. Meanwhile, Salvation Army food pantry coordinator Gary Billings estimated that the pantry has seen demand rise by at least 20 percent this year.
“A lot of people didn’t know what the qualifications were, because they raised them a couple of years ago from 125 percent to 185 percent of the poverty level,” Billings said. “Plus there’s still a lot of unemployment out there, and food stamps were cut a little bit, so that created more need.”
Bell ringing continues in DeKalb County from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Schnucks, Inboden’s Meat Market, JCPenney, Hy-Vee, Walmart, Jewel-Osco and Walgreens locations in DeKalb and Sycamore and Piggly Wiggly in Genoa. Donations can be made online using a credit card at salarmydekalb.org or by mail or in person at 830 Grove St. in DeKalb.
Where to donate Bell ringing continues today at: • Schnucks in DeKalb • Inboden’s Meat Market in DeKalb • JCPenney in DeKalb • Hy-Vee in DeKalb • Walmart in DeKalb • Jewel-Osco in DeKalb • Walgreens in DeKalb and Sycamore • Piggly Wiggly in Genoa.