HANCOCK COUNTY — For the second year running, Salvation Army bell ringers and county residents combined to ring up the second-largest kettle of cash in the state this past holiday season.
The Salvation Army’s 2012 Red Kettle Campaign collected $45,851 in the county, bettering expectations and exceeding last year’s drive by some 15 percent. Only White County, north of Lafayette, finished ahead of the local effort with a tally of just under $52,000.
In only its sixth campaign, the local service extension has more than doubled its contributions, which campaign officials attribute to the county’s generosity – even during a hard economy.
“I think sometimes you see more generosity during tough times, and the generosity throughout the county has just been overwhelming,” said campaign chairman Jim Peters.
During the six-week campaign from mid-November to Christmas, more than 250 volunteers rang up some 800 volunteer hours manning the kettles and ringing the bells at Wal-Mart, Kroger and Marsh stores in Greenfield as well as the Marsh location in New Palestine.
In only its second outing in New Palestine, the Salvation Army was able to double its volunteer hours and the amount collected over last year, garnering about $6,300 there, officials said.
The donation rate at Greenfield’s Wal-Mart location averaged about $50 per hour, said campaign co-chairman David Medved.
Billie Kay, Salvation Army service extension director for the state, said in addition to the benevolence of county residents and businesses this year, the guidance and management provided by the agency’s advisory council was the key to the campaign’s success.
“The generosity obviously played a major role, but it was the leadership and organization that made it happen,” Kay said of the council. “These guys made it happen.”
The Red Kettle Campaign is the Salvation Army’s primary fundraiser within Hancock County, with all money raised staying in the county and providing temporary emergency assistance to residents struggling with rent, utilities, food and other necessary expenses.
A $600 pre-campaign check received in mid-October allowed the local extension to aid eight individuals already this year, officials said.
Not only did residents freely dig change from their pockets after being prodded gently by the smiles and holiday ringing again this past holiday season, they were apparently pleased to do it.
“So many people told me how proud they were to have us in the community,” said council member Dennis Smith, who also stood several shifts with bell in hand.
“When we would thank them for their donation, they would thank us for being here.”
Council member Sue Wells said some donations came from people who had walked a long road, come full circle and wanted to give back.
“When I was ringing the bell one morning, someone dropped money into the kettle and said, ‘When I was cold and hungry and homeless these people helped me, and I wanted to give back,” Wells said.
“And I thought, that’s what it’s all about.”