The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 18, 2012

Giving down: Salvation Army short of goal

By James Neal, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Enid Salvation Army is almost $50,000 behind its fundraising goal for the Christmas season, threatening cutbacks that could impact the agency and community members long after the holidays.

Maj. John Dancer said the Salvation Army has collected less than $132,000 so far this Christmas season, far short of the goal of $180,000.

Dancer said the Christmas collections, through the traditional red kettles, mail solicitation and unsolicited donations, fund Salvation Army operations into the spring. And, the Christmas fundraising represents a major portion of the Salvation Army’s $500,000 annual budget, all raised locally.

“The Christmas fund-raising has to go a long way,” Dancer said. “It has to take us at least into March or April, and for some people it goes into the summertime.

“A lot of people depend on us, especially toward the middle and end of the month, when their paychecks have run out,” Dancer said.

Dancer said the funds raised in December help keep food in the pantry and the soup kitchen through the winter, and also pay the utility bills for the shelter.

The Salvation Army Thrift Store helps fund operations, but Dancer said revenue from that source also has been down this year.

Dancer said the greatest shortfall this year has been in unsolicited donations — money donated directly to Salvation Army, usually by mail.

Unsolicited donations ac-counted for $40,000 in December fundraising last year. This year, less than $10,000 has been mailed in.

While donations have fallen short, demand has re-mained steady, or even increased, Dancer said.

“Demand is still as high as usual,” he said. “That’s the problem; the income has not met the demand. There’s still a lot of people coming to our door.”

If fundraising doesn’t pick up, Dancer and the staff at Enid Salvation Army will have to face some difficult decisions.

“The shortfall means a possible layoff, or cutting back programs that the community really needs, and I really do not want to do either if I can help it,” Dancer said.

He said the fundraising shortfall could force the layoff of some paid staff, or possibly cutting back soup kitchen services, where hungry locals in need currently receive supper seven days a week, plus lunch on Sunday.

Dancer said the community can help keep the food pantry and soup kitchen operating by donating non-perishable foods at 516 N. Independence.

Hunters also can support the soup kitchen by donating their unwanted deer meat.

“People who go out deer hunting, if they have deer meat, we’ll gladly take it,” Dancer said.

He said unprocessed deer meat can be taken to Big Country at 606 W. Willow. Big Country operates a “Hunters for Hunger” program, allowing hunters to make a $10 donation for processing, and donate deer meat to local food pantries and soup kitchens.

But, beyond just keeping the shelves stocked with food, Dancer said it will take more money coming in to keep all the staff on the payroll and cover the cost of providing community services.

“These funds help keep the shelters running, put food in the pantry, as well as pay our overhead,” Dancer said. “Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated.”

He said monetary donations can be made at any of the red kettles, which will be out at local retailers until close of business on Christmas Eve. Checks also can be made out to The Salvation Army and mailed to P.O. Box 708, Enid OK 73702.

Dancer remains confident the donations will pick up, and prevent cuts to staff or programs.

“This community is a great community, and we’re so glad to be here,” Dancer said. “I have faith they will continue to support us, and prevent us from having to let someone go or cut back on our programs, because we don’t want to do that.”