Volunteers with the Salvation Army have stopped ringing their bells beside red kettles but some of the charity’s Iowa chapters report being far behind in reaching their financial goals. Lia Pontarelli, with the Salvation Army in Johnson County, says the bells are silent but the fundraising campaign has to continue.

“The donations are still a little bit lower than we need them to be at this year,” Pontarelli says. The chapter’s goal was $350,000 and they’re still about $100,000 shy.

“It’s extremely important that we hit the (goal) because if we don’t, we’re going to have to seriously look at the services that we provide to the community throughout the year,” Pontarelli says. Those services include providing hot meals all year, as the Salvation Army in Johnson County serves up to 70 meals a night at its kitchen just outside of downtown Iowa City.

Charity officials say it’s actually been a good year for donations, even as many people gave cash to other agencies to help with Hurricane Sandy relief. Barb Carter spent a dozen days ringing a bell beside a red kettle in Iowa City.

“About half the people give something and a dollar bill is really pretty common,” Carter says. “Everybody walks by and puts in at least a dollar.” The Salvation Army in Linn County was more than $140,000 off its goal of $755,000.

The Waterloo-Cedar Falls chapter has raised $600,000 of its $700,000 goal, while the Cedar Rapids chapter has $552,000, well short of its goal of $755,000. They’re optimistic a last-minute push could drive online and in-person donations. Contributions for the red kettle campaigns will continue to be accepted into January.

By Mark Carlson, KCRG, Cedar Rapids