GREENFIELD — Hancock County’s Salvation Army red kettle campaign met its 2017 goal of $40,000 despite a shorter campaign and one fewer site for volunteers to solicit donations from.

Jim Peters, The Salvation Army’s local campaign coordinator, attributed this year’s success to steady social media posts, high volunteer turnout and fundraising assistance from other area organizations.

The group will now put the funds toward helping Hancock County residents with rent and utility payments along with some transportation and medical needs, Peters said.

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The organization set its goal at $40,000 after its 2016 campaign came in lower than expected — reflective of a drop in donations statewide, officials said.

Last year’s campaign raised nearly $35,000 after years of netting nearer to $46,000. So, the leaders of Hancock County’s Salvation Army made the decision to set a more achievable goal as residents tighten their pocket books, Peters said.

“We wanted to have it be something that wasn’t out of range and would put us in shape for next year,” he said.

Peters tracked the progress of the campaign with charts, which showed ringers were able to collect more donations earlier in the season.

Bell ringers collected $15,000 in donations by Dec. 2 of this year, compared to about $5,000 at the same time last year. Still, a great volunteer turnout on the campaign’s last day, Dec. 22, helped push the donations to the goal, Peters said.

“When Christmas Eve is our last night, which is typical, it’s really hard to get folks to ring,” he said. “This year, we had every spot filled on Saturday and Sunday.”

The Greenfield locations — Kroger and Walmart — brought in some $3,100 altogether on the last two evenings, Peters said.

It was a relief to close the campaign on a high note despite the loss of the Greenfield Marsh, which for a decade was a popular location for Salvation Army volunteers, he said. The store closed earlier this year after the Marsh company folded.

The spot at the Greenfield Marsh was a coveted location, Peters said: the grocery store drew a steady stream of customers willing to donate any change left over from their shopping trips, and store officials always allowed bell ringers to stand inside the building, keeping volunteers out of the winter cold.

With the closure of the store, Peters was left with fewer locations and times for volunteers to ring the bell outside of county grocery stores; ringers could choose from Greenfield’s Walmart or Kroger stores or the Needler’s Fresh Market (formerly Marsh) in New Palestine.

To make up the difference, Peters turned for help to those sworn to serve and protect the community.

Law enforcement officials this year aimed to drum up support by “facing off” outside Walmart, with Greenfield Police Department and the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department lending officers to ring the bells for a four-hour stretch, raising more than $2,700.

Each department brought special surprises to encourage Walmart shoppers to donate to their buckets.

At the grocery entrance, Greenfield officers enticed donors with a fire engine and a visit from Santa Claus, said Chief Jeff Rasche. Meanwhile, sheriff’s deputies handed out free popcorn, hot chocolate and apple cider, and appealed to the animal lovers among the shoppers by dressing K-9 officer Argo in a Santa suit, said Maj. Brad Burkhart.

The sheriff’s department prevailed, collecting $1,533 to the police department’s $1,167, Rasche said.

Rasche knew the community would step up and donate generously; he sees it every year with the Cops 4 Kids program, the department’s seasonal effort to provide Christmas gifts to area children in need, he said.

“We saw so many people who were thankful for us being there, raising this money,” he said. “They had their own stories of how their families were helped when they were younger, and we gave them the opportunity to give back.”

Still time to help

Salvation Army red kettle campaign coordinator Jim Peters said the organization can still accept donations which will go toward the 2017 total.

To donate, send a check made out to the Hancock County Salvation Army to:

First Presbyterian Church

116 W. South St.,

Greenfield, IN

46140

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Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.