A pair of bell-ringing brothers man the kettle at Miller’s grocery store in Verona. It’s a tradition every Christmas Eve, and Eric Pynnonen says he and his brother, Ryan, see the most generous people around.
“I mean, this is one of the best kettles in all of Dane County, so, especially today,” Pynnonen said. “A lot of people are giving, so it's really a great thing to see.”
One of those givers was Phil Marshall, someone who slips a dollar or two into the kettle every time he’s shopping for groceries. Judging from the crowds of holiday donors in Verona, he can hardly believe the Salvation Army is far short of meeting its kettle campaign goal this year.
“I just can't believe they're 40 percent down, but you know, times are a little harder,” Marshall explained.
While 70 percent of the bell-ringer spots were filled Christmas Eve, the snow shut down all of the bell ringers last Thursday during prime donation time. Banks were also closed due to the blizzard, which means the non-profit couldn’t get the latest donations on the books.
According to the current count, contributions to the red kettles are only 60 percent of what the Salvation Army of Madison and Dane County wanted to see this year. The goal is set at $700,000.
Major Loren Carter expects the final total to be around $600,000, but this season has been particularly slow for giving.
“All along this Christmas season, we've been probably $100,000 behind,” Carter noted.
Carter says the shortfall could mean cuts in the coming year, but he’s not sure what programs or positions would be scaled back. That decision, Carter said, will need a long discussion.
“We were hoping that we'd be able to get into the black this year,” Carter said, “but the last two years, we've ended up on the short end of the stick.”
Carter said he’s hoping for a boost from end-of-the-year donations from those looking for a charitable tax deduction.
If you’re interested in giving to the Salvation Army, go here.