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Drop in the bucket: Salvation Army’s red kettle campaign short of goal

December 20, 2017 GMT

Over the past four years, Andy Panhorst has noticed a lot of things while ringing his bell and collecting money in front of Walmart for Salvation Army’s annual red kettle campaign.

He’s been able to distinguish the store’s most dedicated customers who shop at the store every evening, the Scrooges of Lake Havasu City and says he’s even witnessed some families grow.

This year, he said, he’s noticed a decline in the spirit of giving.

“I think a lot of people are buying online now and most people have credit cards so they don’t have cash,” said Panhorst. “So instead of just saying, ‘Hi,’ or, ‘Merry Christmas,’ they tend to ignore you and just walk out.”

Havasu’s Salvation Army aims to raise 75 percent of its annual budget of $161,000 through fundraisers, a major one being its red kettle campaign between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, stated Capt. Stephanie Lueras, River Cities coordinator for the organization. The budget amount does not include operating costs and is used toward programs offered by Salvation Army, such as, “Forgotten Senior” and “Adopt-a-Family” programs, Lueras added.

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So far, however, of its $40,000 cash goal for the red kettle campaign, the organization is $11,382 short as of Monday, according to Lueras. The campaign is expected to end Dec. 23 and will resume again next year.

“Unfortunately, red kettles across the state and the country are down this year and are not reaching their goals…here in Bullhead City we’re quite below the mark, as well,” said Lueras. “Even if we don’t meet that red kettle goal, we’re going to have to figure out a way to fundraise and meet that fundraising goal somewhere else throughout the year.”

Lueras explained that one contributing factor to the low numbers this year could be that its 6-by-4-foot red kettle was moved March 2016 from the English Village. She said the organization has not been able to find a new home for the kettle, which collected donation money all year round.

“Unfortunately, due to the size of it, no one has come forward with the willingness to give us the space to put it out there…but we’ll keep trying, we have hope in the New Year that it’s going to go out,” said Lueras. “But it’s caused a hit our fundraising through this year because, while it’s just one fixed location throughout the year, it’s several thousand dollars’ worth of income that we have not received because it’s not out there.”

Another issue the local Salvation Army has faced for the past few years is a shortage of volunteers for its annual red kettle campaign. Due to the shortage, this year, eight volunteers, including Panhorst and his friend, Susie Szczepaniak, are being paid for their assistance.

“When we don’t have volunteers to fill those locations in Havasu at some of the higher traffic areas…we hire temporary holiday help just for those few weeks that we can call on an on-call basis,” said Lueras. “When we pay somebody to be out there at high traffic areas, yes we’re paying somebody, but we’re still having that income coming in as opposed to not having anybody out there at all and losing out completely on the fundraising opportunity.”