SUNBURY — The Salvation Army in Sunbury and Milton exceeded its annual red kettle campaign fundraiser for the 2020 season despite many challenges.
The newly named Rescue Christmas campaign brought in $90,547 toward an $80,000 goal — $53,199 from Sunbury's goal of $50,000 and $37,348 toward Milton's goal of $30,000 — between Nov. 12 and Christmas Eve. Joel Harris, the community coordinator for the two offices, said reaching the goal was surprising due to the difficult times many people and businesses are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We were quite surprised that we surpassed our goals," said Harris. "The community definitely came together. We didn't anticipate that it would turn out as nearly as successful as it has. The support has been astronomical and unprecedented."
The Salvation Army anticipated the spirit of giving may not be as strong with so many struggling people and they lowered the goals. Other challenges made it difficult, but the people of the Valley came through, said Harris.
Thousands of kettle locations nationally were eliminated because the businesses that once hosted them have closed and foot traffic has diminished as much of the public opts to stay at home. Its pool of volunteer bell ringers is smaller, as many older helpers — some who dress up as Santa Claus — are unable to participate because they’re at high-risk for COVID-19. There’s even a national coin shortage, in part because pandemic shopping has turned increasingly digital.
"We made some good transitions for our virtual giving," said Harris. "We were able to raise exactly $2,000 through virtual, which is more than we ever got before."
Each physical location had a QR code for virtual payments. There are also donation links on the Salvation Army website, each of the Facebook pages, and the websites of Country Cupboard in Lewisburg, Matty's Sporthouse in Lewisburg and Northumberland National Bank. Walmart also has an option to round up the bill at checkout.
"We weren't sure what it was going to look like this year," said Capt. Jessica Duperree, of Sunbury. "We had fewer spots and fewer kettle workers. The fact that so much came in is so indicative of the generosity of the community. We were blown away. As the need increased, so did the generosity of the community."
The funds raised will go toward helping people with food and rent throughout the whole year, she said.
Last year, the red kettle campaign raised $58,121 from Sunbury and $36,398 from Milton.
The Salvation Army's other fundraiser, the Here. For Good. campaign, formerly the Needy Family Fund, also exceeded expectations. It sits at $140,521.72 and counting, exceeding the $115,000 goal, and making it the second largest campaign in the fund's history.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.