When you hear the sound of those familiar bells, you know the holiday season is upon us.
The Salvation Army’s annual red kettle campaign is in full swing, and volunteer bell ringers are out in Cambria and Somerset counties collecting donations that will be used to aid needy families, seniors and the homeless throughout the year.
Maj. Joseph F. Pawlowski, corps officer with the Johnstown Salvation Army, said the goal this year for the Greater Johnstown area is $150,000, which is up by 15 percent from 2011.
“Last year we reached our goal of $130,000, and we were very pleased with that. So we’re looking forward to reaching our goal this year,” he said.
“This is the main fundraiser for the Salvation Army. And all money raised in the community stays in the community.”
Funds go toward a variety of initiatives.
Those include social service programs and Community Care Ministries. The funds also provide emergency financial assistance and cover costs at the shelter and the daily meal program.
“There are a lot of things we do with the money that allows us to keep services in the county and the city,” Pawlowski said.
The campaign began Nov. 5 and will run through Dec. 24.
There are 10 kettle sites in the Johnstown area with ringers in place Monday through Saturday.
Volunteer bell ringers are welcome and are especially needed between 4 and 8 p.m.
Those interested in volunteering can call 539-3110 to schedule a time.
The Salvation Army in Somerset set a goal of $35,000, and Director Holly Skinner believes the community will step up and help it surpass that number just as it has in years past.
“We have three kettle locations. We lost one of our big sites this year, so people wouldn’t see as many sites here as in other areas. But hopefully they’ll still donate to us,” she said. “That’s a lot of money to raise in a couple of weeks, but I feel confident we’ll go over that number because this community really pulls together to help those in need.”
As a way to reach the southern part of the county, the Meyersdale service unit will have a collection site at Thomas Drug Store.
“This is for people so they don’t have to travel. All the money raised in Meyersdale will stay in Meyersdale to assist with services,” Skinner said.
The Somerset County drive began Nov. 23 and concludes Dec. 24.
Volunteers also are needed in Somerset and potential helpers can call 445-9232.
For those who can’t make it to a kettle site, the option to donate online is available.
Pawlowski said the organization has set a goal of $5,000 for online donations. He noted that this has been done for a few years and seems to be the method that the younger generation uses to give.
“We’re able to reach out to a new base of donors and the Internet is helping us to do that,” he said.
Online donations can be made at www.onlineredkettle.org/johnstownpacorps.
Skinner said Somerset’s online goal is $10,000 and those wanting to give can do so at www.onlineredkettle.org/ somerset.
“Times are changing and I really believe this type of donating is the future for us, and we are promoting it more this year,” she said.
In Scranton, the Salvation Army is making it more convenient for people to donate by attaching credit card scanners to kettles. The decision to offer this method came in as more people were found to be carrying credit or debt cards rather than cash.
Although no kettle location in Johnstown or Somerset has the credit card capability, it’s an idea Pawlowski and Skinner believe might be explored in the future.
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