Red-KettleThe Salvation Army’s annual red kettle bell-ringing campaign is underway outside stores and businesses across Iowa. Cedar Rapids Salvation Army development director, Lia Pontareli, says this campaign is a key in raising the funds they need for the next year.

“We project, we hope, we budget to raise about 48 percent of our annual operating budget,” Pontareli says. “So, what we raise during the Christmas campaign, it really sets the tone for the rest of the next year. It’s gonna help us determine what and how much of things we are going to be able to do in our community.” She says they’ve been able to hit their goals even when the economy has struggled. This year the goal is $815,000.

“Our community is absolutely wonderful and they have helped us meet the goal for many of the past few years. And we hope the same will happen this year,” Pontareli says. “We have set our goal a little bit higher than past years… it’s about $20,000 more than we raised last year.” Major Jim Beasley in Des Moines says they are hoping for good support again too.

“Our goal this year ins one million, $100,000. It’s the same as last year. We were just a little short last year and we figured we’d just kind of keep that same goal,” Beasley says. Beasley says they combine mailers with the traditional bell ringing at the kettles. He says they hope to raise around $400,000 from bell ringing and the other $700,000 from the mail appeal. Beasley says the money raise now is a huge chunk of their budget.

“We’re raising about 65 percent of our budget all in the next five to six weeks,” Beasley says. He says it’s important for the future, but also important right now as they have to spend some $68,000 on Christmas meals. He says a lot of people depend on the Salvation Army support.

“We have a little over 1,200 families. And of those, 650 are just going to receive food. The rest of them are going to receive food and toys for children under 12 years of age,” Beasley says.

The bell ringing just got underway and Pontareli says it started slow. “And we believe weather has been a big part of that as it has been warmer it hasn’t really sunk in to people where we are at in the year. That we are in the holiday season, that Thanksgiving is here,” Pontareli says. She says the recent cooler weather has put people in a more giving mode. Weather can be a negative if it gets too extreme.

“If we have horrible weather with the snow and the ice that will negatively affect us. So, we are hoping that it stays a nice brisk cool day,” Pontareli says. Beasley sees the same connection to the weather and giving at the red kettles in central Iowa.

“If it’s snowing, it doesn’t really impact it. In fact if it has any kind of affect on it, it’s a good one,” he says. “People feel when there is a little chill in the air and snow in the air it’s Christmasy, so they don’t mind giving to that.” But when the weather turns frightful, the giving isn’t so delightful.

“If it ‘s just wet and rainy and real cold — they won’t take their hands out of their pockets — and we don’t blame the, we understand that. They just get out of the car and run into the store,” Beardsley says. “And we can be affected by at least 10 percent if you have a lot of days like that,” Beardsley says. The Red Kettle Campaign runs through Christmas.