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Salvation Army bell-ringers strive to fill kettles, reach goal by Saturday |

Salvation Army bell-ringers strive to fill kettles, reach goal by Saturday

The bells have been ringing throughout the Alle-Kiski Valley since Thanksgiving, but the red kettles aren’t filling up as fast as they should.

The Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle campaign, traditionally the organization’s largest yearly fundraiser, was only at 57 percent of the regional goal heading into its last few days.

Donna Fencik, a Salvation Army spokeswoman, said figures for the campaign’s fourth week, which ended Dec. 16, show the Western Pennsylvania Division had raised just $1.7 million of its $2.7 million goal.

Fencik said the New Kensington office is doing slightly better than the rest of the region, with 59 percent of its $66,000 goal reached, while Kittanning is struggling and at 47 percent of its $37,000 goal. Allegheny County, as a whole, is at 57 percent of its goal.

Fencik said this doesn’t mean the group won’t make it there before the bells stop ringing, as the last week before Christmas often is the time that people are the most generous.

“Typically, about 40 percent of the money raised during the campaign comes in during the last week, with the last few days being the most,” she said.

However, this year brings an additional hurdle: Christmas Eve, generally the campaign’s biggest single day, falls on a Sunday and bell-ringers don’t collect on Sundays.

That means Saturday officially is the last day the bell-ringers will be out collecting.

“The kettle campaign will officially end on the 23rd,” Fencik said. “There is some concern that may negatively affect us, as we depend on the generosity of last-minute shoppers to help us get to our goals.”

Joe Orsino, owner of Mr. O The Dog Training Place in Lower Burrell, was ringing a bell outside the Wal-Mart in Frazer on Friday with his two German shepherds, Sky and Blue.

Orsino said he always rings for the Red Kettle Campaign, but this year he has been out a few extra days because of the slow collections.

“We do this about three or four times a year. We’ve done a little bit more this year, because their donations are down a little bit, so we’re trying to help them with that,” he said.

Orsino said bringing his dogs out tends to encourage donations.

“I think it’s great, it brings some cheer. People love dogs, they’re happy to see them and the dogs are happy to be seen. It creates a great environment and plus, you know, people are a little bit more giving when they see the dogs,” he said. “They do help with the cause.”

Started in San Francisco in 1891, the Red Kettle Campaign has become one of the most recognizable charitable campaigns held nationally.

The campaign provides toys for kids, coats for the homeless, food for those without and helps pay for social programs offered by the Salvation Army throughout the year. Each year, the program enlists the aid of more than 25,000 volunteer bell-ringers nationwide.

Matthew Medsger is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4675, or via Twitter @matthew_medsger.

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