COLUMBIA — The Salvation Army's red kettle campaign in Columbia has raised $5,000 less than the same time last year, which makes Maj. Kendall Mathews a little nervous.
"It could be the economy or the fact that unemployment is still on the rise," he said. "I think people are having to decide between putting food on the table, gas in the car or money in the kettle. We're not proud of that number, but we're confident that the community will rally around the kettle."
In past years, there have also been lulls in donations.
"It's just been tough this year," Mathews said, despite a high number of volunteers.
Rita Alford, volunteer coordinator, said the local organization had 113 registered volunteers this year, which is more than last year. The volunteers include a preschool class and retired postal workers.
Alford even said she has one volunteer who dons a Darth Vader costume with a Santa Claus hat.
"Volunteers are at the heart of what we do," she said.
Bell ringers will be outside Columbia stores from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday until Christmas Eve. Mail-in donations for the seasonal drive can be made until Jan. 31.
The Salvation Army raised $148,524 in Columbia through the kettle campaign from Nov. 9, 2009, through Jan. 31, 2010.
The money was used to:
- Provide clothing for 5,766 people.
- Serve 62,428 meals.
- Give 4,310 Christmas presents to children.
- Provide shelter for 903 people.
Mathews said that 93 cents of every dollar donated in Columbia goes toward services.
"The money we raise is used to serve people," he said. "I can't emphasize that enough."