This year’s Red Kettle Campaign is running short on funds as Christmas draws near, representatives of the Salvation Army Lebanon Corps revealed.

Dr. Terry Weaver, advisory board member and campaign chairman, said that as of Dec. 12, the local Salvation Army corps had reached 65% of the Red Kettle campaign’s $93,000 goal. (Updated figures were not available as of publication time.)

According to Lt. Marlon Rodriguez, who is a commanding officer of the Salvation Army Lebanon Corps along with his wife, Lt. Ivonne Rodriguez, the Salvation Army headquarters in Philadelphia sets this goal each year.

“I would say that we are behind,” Weaver said. Then, he crunched the numbers.

Between Dec. 12 and Christmas Day, there are 11 ringing days, with the last ringing day being Christmas Eve. In order to reach the remaining 35% of the campaign’s goal, or about $32,550, the Salvation Army Lebanon Corps would need to raise almost $3,000 each ringing day.

“We don’t quite average $3,000 a day in kettles. So, we are behind,” Weaver said. “We do receive more donations near Christmas, and we are so thankful for that, but it’s hard to anticipate. So, yes, we are behind at this point.”

Read more: Ringing in the giving season: Red Kettle campaign launches in Lebanon County

When asked about the reasons the Salvation Army Lebanon Corps is behind target, Weaver responded, “Compared to last year, which we didn’t make our goal either, it’s difficult to tell, it’s difficult to say. I can’t tell you why we are. I’m guessing, perhaps, the economy, and, perhaps, the residuals of COVID-19, but that’s my guess. I can’t tell you exactly why.”

He later mentioned “a trend that we have seen over the past few years is that more people are ordering their purchases online and bypassing the brick-and-mortar stores. Also, when people do shop at a local store, many people do not carry cash these days. I would like donors to know that at each of our kettle stands, there is a QR code they can scan with a smartphone.”

The QR code directs people to the Salvation Army Lebanon Corps’ Virtual Red Kettle.

“And, of course, we depend on our donors to come to the red kettles we ring in front of the stores,” Marlon Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said that, despite being behind target, spirits at the Salvation Army Lebanon Corps are high.

A recent highlight was the Angel Tree program distribution, which was held from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Salvation Army Lebanon Corps, located at 1031 Guilford St.

“Right now, I have my family members and employees that are working over there trying to put everything together for the Angel Tree program for tomorrow for the distribution,” Ivonne Rodriguez said. “We’ve been working for weeks. The community has been so wonderful. The agencies, the donors … they have been coming in, helping, volunteering hours. … I’m so amazed. It has been beautiful, beautiful.”

Donations for the Angel Tree program. (Provided by Lt. Marlon Rodriguez)

An ongoing highlight is the senior food box distribution.

As part of the initiative, door dashers deliver boxes of food to the doorsteps of registered seniors in Lebanon County. If a door dasher is unable to find a senior’s residence, they bring the boxes to the Salvation Army Lebanon Corps, where Ivonne Rodriguez or a volunteer will wait for a callback and then deliver the boxes.

“We thank Central PA Food Bank for collaborating with us,” Ivonne Rodriguez said. “We’re working with a wonderful team.”

And although the Salvation Army Lebanon Corps is behind target on its Red Kettle campaign goal, Ivonne Rodriguez said, “We as a team … in the Lebanon Corps, we wanted to reach out to [as] many families as we can. And I think we have done it. And we want to reach out more, but I think we are doing a great job. And yes, we have fulfilled our goal, and we are very happy with what we are doing.

“As a team and as part of the Salvation Army, I just want to thank the community,” she continued. “Actually, there’s no words to say how grateful we are for what they have done, different agencies, different people. Everybody got together for this program that we love a lot. And we have many testimonies of people that have been blessed [by the program], and they are giving back.”

Weaver said the corps “couldn’t do it without our advisory board members who ring the bell for us and also … help to count the donations. And I do want to mention Nancy Lebo and also Melissa Heisler, who organize the people who count the donations. And we have board members who transport kettles and workers to the different sites. So, it’s really a group effort to try to get this done.”

Marlon Rodriguez also acknowledged the advisory board.

“Both campaigns and actually all the programs that we run at the Salvation Army, we could not do it on our own,” he said. “We also have a great advisory board that supports us in all the activities. … The advisory board consists of working people, working professionals who live in Lebanon or the Lebanon community. And they come and support our programs.”

Lebanon County residents who are interested in volunteering with the Salvation Army Lebanon Corps this holiday season can call its office number, (717) 273-1031, sign a volunteer form, and start ringing.

Volunteers ring at its different sites from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“There’s a lot to say about the people who volunteer and how much I appreciate that. We have 33 different groups that are ringing at 43 sites,” Weaver said. “This is better than last year’s numbers that we had but not as high as 2019, when we had 40 groups ringing. So we’re slowly building that up after the pandemic to the number of people who are ringing again, and that is wonderful.”

He continued, “The groups that are ringing, we have banks, churches, Lebanon Valley College, we have community organizations like the Rotary, the Lion’s Club, Sertoma, Kiwanis in Palmyra and Lebanon. This year, we had a youth group, Northern Lebanon Cross Country Team, they were a lot of fun to have them ring, we have families that ring. The same family rings every Christmas eve at the farmer’s market. We have a lot of dedicated individual ringers, many that have been helped by the Salvation Army in the past who come out and help us.

“This year’s campaign theme is Love Beyond Christmas and I think that … what these groups show is they have a love for people here in Lebanon County and they’re showing their love by helping us at our main kettle sites.”

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Lexi Gonzalez

Lexi Gonzalez is a reporter for LebTown. She is currently completing her bachelor's degree at Lebanon Valley College.

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