Expect to see a lot of red kettles this holiday season.
The Salvation Army of Northwest Ohio kicked off its annual Red Kettle campaign Thursday with the highest fund-raising goal in its history. Through the concerted effort of community volunteers, organizers hope to collect $520,000, an even higher goal than last year's record $470,000.
"We are seeing unprecedented requests for help," coordinator Capt. Steven Lopes said. "We were hoping to see it decline because we spiked so much in 2009. ...We haven't seen it yet."
Volunteers will be ringing bells and collecting money at stores throughout the area, principally outside Walmart, Kroger, Andersons, Kmart, Hobby Lobby, Big Lots and at the Westfield Franklin Park shopping center. Around 100 groups of people have already signed up to help, and the Salvation Army is hoping to recruit at least 100 more. Groups are generally made up of workers from a business, school students, church organizations, or families.
The money raised will fund Salvation Army programs in the northwest Ohio area throughout next year, including food assistance, utility help, youth programs, and various other social service initiatives.
The programs serve people in Lucas, Wood, Ottawa, Henry, and Fulton counties.
Many of the people asking for assistance from the Salvation Army are those who never asked for help in the past, Captain Lopes said. Some have been laid off from jobs, while others are working but not earning enough to get by, the captain said. He said there are even people who used to donate to the Salvation Army but are now seeking help themselves because they are threatened with foreclosure or suffering from a job loss.
"Those are individuals who before 2009 were supporters of the Salvation Army, people who wrote the check," he said. "Now they're on the other side of the coin."
Toledo Mayor Mike Bell and dozens of Salvation Army board members and supporters attended the kickoff event Thursday, which was held at the Fifth Third Center in downtown Toledo. Mayor Bell said he plans to volunteer at the Kroger store on Monroe Street at Secor Road, and is encouraging other area mayors to get involved and compete to see who can raise the most money.
Dick Anderson, chairman emeritus of The Andersons Inc., called on others in the community to help raise or donate money.
"The happiest folks I've ever known are the ones who give, and give consistently," he said. "Givers are winners too. When you're giving you're winning, because there is no better feeling than that one."
One person dropping money into the red kettle yesterday was Diana Ruiz-Krause, a captain with the Toledo police department. She said she volunteers and donates to the Salvation Army every year.
"They help a lot of people who otherwise wouldn't get help," she said. This year's goal "is a very big goal, but I think it's a very giving community and I think we will reach that goal."
Anyone interested in volunteering or donating to the Salvation Army of Northwest Ohio can call the main office at 419-241-1138. Those seeking assistance can call, or visit the offices at 620 North Erie St., Toledo.
Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at: