Courier Staff Writer
In the final weeks before Christmas, the Ottumwa Salvation Army has seen an uptick in donations to the red kettles around town.
Capt. Tabitha Knuth said the red kettle campaign has already surpassed donations received at this time last year. So far the kettles have taken in more than $34,000. The Army’s goal for this year is to raise $106,000.
“At this time last year, we were not doing that well,” she said. “So we’re doing better than last year as far as donations. The biggest thing we think is we have more people manning the kettles this year. People don’t tend to give to an empty kettle.”
But that doesn’t mean you can’t give to an un-manned kettle, she said, which will be out until Christmas Eve.
“You can still put money in even if a person is not there,” she said. “And even if you don’t want to sign up ahead of time, you can pick up a bell and ring for a few minutes.”
When the Army puts together its budget every year, they determine what they will need to see in donations to help with the services they provide. Typically, they meet their goal, she said.
“Everything goes right back into the services we provide, such as the senior meals as well as rent and utility assistance,” she said.
The Army still met its goal last year, through kettle donations and people mailing in donations.
“Kettles were down but mailings were up, so we were able to meet it last year,” she said.
Knuth said she isn’t even sure how to put a number to the many volunteers they’ve had this year.
“We have seven different spots and in two-hour increments — that’s a lot of people,” she said. “Hopefully we’re going to be adding an eighth location at the mall.”
Right now, kettles can be found at both North and South Hy-Vee, Hy-Vee Drug, Kmart, Fareway and two at Walmart.
Donnie Stockdall, Salvation Army member and volunteer, just started ringing bells last year and continued this year at Kmart.
“They’re paying me to be here, but it’s better than sittin’ on my rear at home,” Stockdall said. “It helps the little guys out. Somebody’s got to help ’em out, and most are old like I am.
“If I don’t do this, some little guy will do without Christmas. If everybody came through and gave just a penny, the kettle wouldn’t be able to hold it by the end of the day.”
The best part is watching little kids donate, Stockdall said, because they get to know what it feels like to give back.
“The ones you think wouldn’t give are those ones who give — and who give the most,” he said.
Linda Stateler, Salvation Army member and volunteer at South Hy-Vee, said people have been really supportive this year, with more people donating than not.
“A lot of people donate,” she said. “We really appreciate all of the giving. People are very generous.”
Stateler has been ringing the bells for four years now, ending every donation with a “God bless you.”
Thankfully, Ottumwa hasn’t suffered from the kettle thefts Des Moines has seen this year.
“We think people are watching for that around town to make sure nobody suspicious is around,” Knuth said.
Even when she and other staff go around to retrieve donations, they only take the kettle, not the entire contraption, as the thieves in Des Moines did.
“We’re very grateful for the donations that have already come in and the people who have donated their time as well,” she said.