COLUMBIA — The holiday season might be over, but The Salvation Army says it is more important now than ever to keep the season of giving alive.
The Columbia Salvation Army depends on the funds from their annual Tree of Lights campaign to fund projects year-round. The yearly goal for donations collected between mid-November and Jan. 31 is $300,000. Donations are down 18 percent this year, leaving around $54,000 still needed before the campaign ends Jan. 31, said Cyndy Chapman, development director for the organization. Chapman said in years past, 100 percent of funds have been collected by this time but donations are running way behind this year.
The Tree of Lights campaign raises donations from collections dropped in the well-known red kettles, mail solicitations and donations mailed directly to The Salvation Army office.
The money supports projects such as disaster relief, aid for the homeless, food vouchers, school supplies and clothes for those in need in the Columbia area.
Richard Hauschild, a Salvation Army board member in Columbia, said the shortage of funds will impact the organization’s social services efforts the most. Hauschild said the demand for assistance was above average in 2007, and he expects it to remain the same in 2008.
The organization tries to do the same amount of work each year, but this year it might have to do it with less money, Chapman said. She said the Salvation Army doesn’t know where potential cuts will have to be made if the funding goal is not reached and will determine those areas as the year goes along.
In 2006 the Salvation Army’s Harbor House Shelter provided local people with 15,707 lodging nights. They provided cold weather cots for 573 people during extreme weather and provided 3,703 bags of groceries and assisted 4,558 households, Chapman said.
Chapman and Hauschild cited the weather, which kept people indoors and out of shopping centers, as a crucial factor behind the drop in donations this year.
“Saturday is far and away our biggest collection day,” said Hauschild. “It seemed like every Saturday in December saw either ice, snow or extremely cold weather.”
Hauschild said a few other factors affecting this year’s campaign were the slow economy and a lack of volunteers.
Chapman wanted to remind the community that the money from this campaign stays here in Columbia.
“The people we are asking to give may be the same people we would be able to help someday,” Chapman said.
Donations can be sent year-round to the Salvation Army at 1108 W. Ash St., Columbia, MO 65203.