With the Red Kettle campaign falling short of its $57,000 goal, The Salvation Army’s Cartersville Corps is once again reviewing its operating budget. The holiday effort — where bell ringers collected donations from the public at sites across Bartow from late November through Dec. 23 — raised about $40,000 for the nonprofit.
“Because of the way The Salvation Army governs itself, each individual Salvation Army unit is responsible for raising its own operating budget from its own individual community,” Salvation Army Capt. Scott Lyles said. “All of the programs and services we are able to conduct in a given calendar year are dependent on what funds we can raise from within the community itself.
“Every year, we, locally, sit down, evaluate our income and expenses, and complete a working budget for the Cartersville Salvation Army Unit. Last year, our goal was $50,000, but we were only able to raise about $43,000 of that amount. We were then in January forced to re-evaluate the budget and, with help from The Salvation Army’s Georgia Divisional Headquarters, tighten the budget enough to continue to serve Bartow County. This year, because of increased expenses, we needed to raise $57,000 from our Red Kettle program.”
With inclement weather impacting Red Kettle donations in 2017, the local Salvation Army reached out to the community for assistance. On Dec. 12, the drive only had generated $18,022.
“About halfway through the bell ringing season, we put out a call for help to the general public, because it became clear we were not going to meet our goal,” Lyles said. “The main culprit — the weather. While we do try to ring in bad weather, the worse the weather gets the more difficult [it] becomes to find ... individuals willing to brave the weather to ring the bells for us. In the days leading to Bartow County’s snow weekend, we were actually ahead of last year’s efforts by about $4,000. When that particular weekend was over, we found ourselves behind by $4,000 as compared to the same day in 2016. It [was] then that we began to get word out that we needed support.
“We did see an increase in support after that, but we still ended the Red Kettle season having raised about $40,000. While this is only $3,000 behind last year’s total, it is far from the $57,000 we needed to meet our budgetary goals.”
He continued, “So, what lies ahead? Barring any late or last-minute donations — I kid around the office about finding a Dickensian, benevolent benefactor — we will need [to] do as we did last year and re-examine the operating budget. We’ll take a look to see where we can trim and still provide essential services to those in need in Bartow County.”
Along with reaching out to the public to rally around the Red Kettle campaign, the Cartersville Corps also sought support for its Angel Tree program. In mid-December, 70 families still needed to be “adopted” through its Angel Tree effort, which provides youth — newborn to 13 — with gifts and clothing.
“This year our final number of families served through our Angel Tree program was 238,” Salvation Army Capt. Michelle Lyles said. “This was a total of 626 children that received new clothing and toys for Christmas through the generous support of the Bartow County community.
“These families come from all walks of life. Some are victims of generational poverty, while some are the result of situational poverty. Yes, we have the faces we recognize from previous years, but we do also have a good many families that come to us for help that are families where ... one or more of the parents are working full-time jobs yet are still unable to make ends meet. We weren’t called to judge, but were instead commanded to love.”
For Scott Lyles, while The Salvation Army’s holiday campaigns were not smooth sailing this year, they still demonstrated the giving nature of Bartow’s residents.
“Frankly, we couldn’t do it without the support we receive from our volunteers and support staff,” he said. “Christmas is such a busy time for both my wife, who runs the Angel Tree program, and myself. We rarely get a moment to slow down and rest once the season begins. One of the moments I remember most had to do with her Angel Tree program. As the [days] were counting down to our big toy distribution and we were finalizing the packing process for all 238 families in our Angel Tree program, we began to realize that we were missing gifts for some families; 70 families to be exact. We didn’t have gifts for 70 families.
“The first thing we did was pray about it, then we put out a call on The Salvation Army Cartersville’s Facebook site for help. By the end of the ... day through the support of some very wonderful individuals, that number had been cut in half. The Bartow County community wasn’t done yet though, and at the end of the next day we were down to just 40 or so older children who hadn’t been adopted. All 40 of those were covered by the end of the third day when some wonderful supporters came through our doors and asked, how could they help? It really was awesome to watch God work through our community to support these families during the holiday season.”
For more information about The Salvation Army and its programs and services, call 770-387-9955.