BANGOR, Maine — The Salvation Army’s collection efforts are lagging so far this holiday season, in large part due to this year’s late Thanksgiving, according to officials with the charity organization.
In Bangor, the Salvation Army’s Santa’s Helper $60,000 fundraising push supported by the Bangor Daily News has just surpassed the one-third point, but it has been running for 16 days since Thanksgiving and scheduled to end on Christmas.
“Santa’s Helper is a little behind at this point from where we were last year,” Capt. Tim Clark said, though he added that he’s “fairly optimistic” that the goal will be reached before Christmas closes in.
The Salvation Army’s familiar red kettles also are “well behind where we would want to be at this point,” Clark said. The organization set a goal of $140,000 for this season, to be raised at 22 kettles scattered outside businesses in the Bangor area. As of Wednesday, about $53,000 had been dropped into the kettles, according to Clark.
Maj. Steve Ditmer of The Salvation Army of Greater Portland said southern Maine’s red kettle drives also are off to a slow start. That organization is trying to raise $160,000 this year, but at last count had just crossed into the $55,000 range, according to Ditmer. The Portland Salvation Army is about $18,000 short of where it was at this time last year, when it raised a total of $132,000, well short of its $160,000 goal.
Part of the reason fundraising is lagging, according to Clark, is the fact that Thanksgiving, which fell on Nov. 28, was six days later than it was last year. That shortened the Santa’s Helper season and also meant that the kettle drive wasn’t allowed to start at some stores until Nov. 29. Some chain stores have regulations that prevent the Salvation Army from setting up kettles until the day after Thanksgiving.
“I would really encourage people to consider donating to our red kettle effort if they’re able to,” Clark said. “It’s an investment into next year and the services we can provide the community coming into the future.”
During the six weeks leading up to Christmas, The Salvation Army typically raises one-third to one-fourth of its total annual donations.
“By putting money in those kettles, it really is helping their neighbors in the community in a real and practical way,” Clark said.
Like Clark, Ditmer cited the unusually short window between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but he also believes frigid temperatures are keeping people at home or prompting them to rush into the stores.
Ditmer also said that fewer people are carrying cash, using credit cards to make purchases instead. For those who use cards, Ditmer said Maine’s Salvation Army branches have an easy online donation process.
The funds raised by The Salvation Army around the holidays cover its operations throughout the year, from providing Christmas toys for children and meals for those who are hungry, to clothing for families and heating assistance for those who are struggling to pay their bills. The funds also help The Salvation Army run a summer camp on Sebago Lake in Standish.
“We don’t want to focus on money because we’re really focusing on people,” Clark said, but it’s the money raised that allows the organization to provide these services.
Clark said he hopes the next two weekends make up for the slow start, as people rush to Bangor area stores to do their last-minute Christmas shopping.
To donate to Santa’s Helper, send contributions to Santa’s Helper Fund, The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 1657, Bangor, ME 04401, or online at Bangor.SalvationArmyME.org. To contribute to the Portland branch of The Salvation Army, visit Portland.SalvationArmyME.org.
To contribute to the red kettle campaign, listen for the sound of the bells while on your holiday shopping.