Election campaigns may be over, but the campaigns for two fundraising efforts are now in full swing, as The Salvation Army kicked off its annual mission Friday, Nov. 9, and the United Way of Portage County races to the finish line to meet its goal.
During The Salvation Army kickoff at Trig’s in Stevens Point, campaign committee member Brant Bergeron announced the organization hopes to collect $125,000 in the red kettles located at the entrances of a number of area businesses – a figure he said is an increase from last year’s goal of $107,000.
“We know as needs go in our community that the need is greater than ever, and as The Salvation Army knows, ‘need knows no season,’” said Bergeron. “We know it’s a year-round effort even though we are raising money during this Christmastime.”
Jared Redfield, The Salvation Army Advisory Council chair, said people who put money in red kettles should know their money is going to a good cause, as the faith-based organization is currently helping 33 people who would otherwise be homeless through its food and shelter program.
“It serves a huge need in the community for those people who might not be able to afford a meal,” he said. “In these economic hard times it is providing a haven for those less fortunate.”
Redfield said The Salvation Army also offers drug and alcohol counseling, and assistance to help people find employment.
“Our funding comes from the community – almost exclusively from the Red Kettle Campaign – so we welcome any contribution people can make to this wonderful organization,” he said.
Portage County Executive Patty Dreier made note of the circle people were standing in at the kickoff at Trig’s. “(The circle is) a symbol to me of embracing our community, of embracing the people in our neighborhoods and of taking care of our own, so let this be a successful campaign,” she said. “We know our need is great but our circle is strong.”
Stevens Point Mayor Andrew Halverson agreed. “It’s not only a symbol of the giving our community is certainly known for, but more than anything it symbolizes a very joyous and special season for all of us,” he said. “This is the first true example of the fact that the holiday season is approaching us, and it’s great to always remember the least fortunate as we remember such a joyous time of the year.”
Bob Quam, director of operations at The Salvation Army, said the first Red Kettle Campaign began in 1894 in San Francisco, Calif., and now is held in communities throughout the world. “This is what our campaign is about: bringing our community together,” he said. “It’s always been a community that has come together.”
At the kickoff, Sherry Boyce of Ministry Health Care put the first donation in a red kettle – one for $1,572 collected during a number of Ministry fundraising activities held in September.
Bergeron said in addition to receiving donations, campaign organizers are hoping more people will volunteer to ring bells at red kettles. “We need volunteers to ring bells throughout this campaign, because that’s what really makes this campaign happen,” he said.
Bell ringing locations are available through Christmas Eve. Volunteers can sign up online at ringbells.org or by calling 715-341-2437. People can also “Like” The Salvation Army Stevens Point on Facebook.
Bergeron noted that it does receive funding from the United Way of Portage County, which is in the final weeks of its annual fundraising campaign that began in August.
The United Way hopes to collect $2,675,000 during its 2012 campaign – a figure that represents a 2.5-percent increase from last year’s goal of $2,575,000.
At this point in the campaign the United Way has collected 70 percent of its goal through workplace campaigns and individual giving, but Sue Wilcox, United Way executive director, said she believes the outcome of whether or not the goal is met will come down to the final days of the campaign. “It’s a race,” she said. “We think it’s going to be difficult to make the goal this year. We think it’s going to take new givers – and those who have given before to give more.” Last year’s campaign went slightly over the goal, bringing in $2,612,000.
She said the workplace campaigns are scheduled to end Friday, Nov. 16, for employees who contribute in them to be eligible for some of the sweepstakes that are offered by donating. “Our companies are pulling out all the stops, really encouraging special events,” said Wilcox. She highlighted one such event in which Ray Przybelski, director of Portage County Health and Human Services, said he will shave his head if employees in his department meet their fundraising goal.
Jessica Hoerter, United Way director of marketing and communications, said they often hear many people don’t donate because they aren’t asked. “This is our ask to the community,” she said.
Wilcox agreed, noting people can donate by reaching out to the United Way office at 1100 Centerpoint Drive, Stevens Point; by calling 715-341-6740; via the website at UnitedWayPoCo.org; or by sending a check. “Consider giving a gift at any level,” she said. “Any level matters in terms of our ability to raise money. The best concept of United Way is that when we get any little gifts, or large gifts, we pool those dollars and then we reach that goal and are able to distribute it out. Every dollar counts.”
The United Way campaign will end Wednesday, Dec. 5, at 4 p.m. during a Victory Celebration at SentryWorld in Stevens Point that is open to the community. The fundraising total will be announced at this event.
Fred Hebblewhite, United Way director of resource development, said money collected in the campaign will be distributed to 34 partner agencies to help the United Way complete its mission, which is to inspire people to work together to improve lives and build stronger communities by focusing on education, income and health of the people living in Portage County.
He said this is especially important now, as the recently released Local Indicators for Excellence Report indicates increased needs in a number of areas in Portage County. They include rising unemployment and an increase in the number of students who qualify for free or reduced priced meals at school.