Salvation Army red kettle campaign raises $60K
Post Independent Correspondent
The area’s Salvation Army office estimates that it has raised approximately $60,000 during its annual red kettle campaign this season.
“The Christmas bell-ringing is my only fundraiser, so it’s really important every year,” said caseworker Karen Lee, who leads the Glenwood-based chapter as its lone employee. “It all stays local. Every penny, nickel or dollar dropped in the kettle goes right back to clients in need here in this area.”
Lee reported that hundreds of local volunteers took shifts ringing bells and collecting the change of passersby at nine different locations from El Jebel to Parachute, including Wal-Mart and City Market in Glenwood.
“Every year most of the volunteers come from the Kiwanis Club, Rotary, the Lions Club and high school Key Clubs,” Lee said. “But there are others, too — I’ve even had a local second-grade teacher bring her class to ring the bell to help the students learn about volunteerism and philanthropy.”
The Salvation Army, founded in England in the mid-1800s, is a worldwide Christian Protestant church and charity organization with branches in more than 120 countries today. Around the globe, its initiatives range from providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief, homeless shelters, veterans’ services, elderly assistance and operating thrift shops. Although the organization’s branding is well-recognized internationally, Lee says that the mission of her small office is committed to remaining hyper-local by helping individuals who live in the valley.
“Only about 3 or 4 percent of our funds go to nonresidents,” she said. “And this is simply because we live near a major interstate and sometimes traveling people come to this office for a little help. Otherwise, though, funds go to people who reside here, in our community. The vast majority are our neighbors.”
Although the parent organization’s mission is faith-based, Lee notes that the local Salvation Army office does not function as a church — and that there is no expectation of religious commitment or conversion to receive aid.
“There has been controversy regarding the Salvation Army in other places around the country and the world, but it’s an enormous organization with thousands of members, and sometimes certain people might deviate from the core mission — which is to meet others’ needs without discrimination,” Lee said. “I can only control what goes on in my office, because I’m the only one here and I make the decisions. Here, with me, there is no agenda of evangelism. My job is to provide compassionate assistance for individuals in need regardless of anyone’s religious beliefs, race, sexuality or politics — and to do so while respecting their dignity as a human being.”
Lee noted that the Glenwood office works primarily with clients seeking short-term emergency assistance — whether they are trying to make rent, put gas in the car to get to work, fill a prescription or cover a utility bill. She assists both walk-ins and referrals from Valley View Hospital, Garfield County Human Services, churches and other nonprofit organizations such as Feed My Sheep.
“In the fiscal year 2016 this office provided about $54,000 in rent assistance, typically in amounts of $400 to $500 per family, which has increased in recent years as the housing market here has tightened,” she said. “We also gave around $21,000 in utilities assistance, most often with heating bills. Every penny is accounted for. Anyone curious to know where donations go can give me a call or swing by the office.”
Emergency funds, Lee added, are not awarded to those seeking recurring assistance.
“Then it becomes a form of income,” she said. “For example, we are not able to provide rent assistance for the same family month after month, year after year — this would not be the most fair use of our funds. The hope is that we can help a family in the short-term, which will help stabilize things for the long-term. Stability and safety: These are two things I always consider when a client is seeking help. I try to see things from their perspective.”
Lee, who began working with the local office almost seven years ago, says she has watched the community slowly bounce back from the recession despite some lingering problems.
“I started in April 2010, which was at the height of the recession, and I basically entered the front lines of seeing people struggle with this,” she recalled. “They were facing evictions, the possibility of the electricity being turned off — there was a lot of anger and a lot of fear. Some people were seeing their lives spiral out of control. Generally speaking, things are better now, but many still aren’t able to work a full 40 hours anymore, and they aren’t making as much as they used to. So assistance is still needed sometimes.”
Often, Lee continued, people find themselves with a simple stroke of bad luck that could happen to anyone: an injury, illness or other difficulty preventing them from covering a bill. She stressed that Christmas kettle campaign dollars will continue to benefit locals in need over the course of 2017.
“The generosity of volunteers and donors at this time of year is amazing, it is really, really beautiful,” she said. “It is a big statement that community members support each other at Christmas and throughout the year.”
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Jean Alberico, quien ha trabajado en la Oficina del Secretario del Condado de Garfield durante 40 años, incluidos cuatro mandatos como secretaria electa y registradora, planea jubilarse después de las elecciones de este año.