CRYSTAL LAKE – While the new commanding officers talked holiday programming, Eduardo Lejis-Alvarez did the behind-the-scenes work.
The maintenance man sat in an office of The Salvation Army of McHenry County, red buckets stacked to his left, readying a table full of bells for Friday’s launch of the organization’s Red Kettle Campaign.
“Before we put everything out there, we have to make sure everything is working in here, too,” he said.
Others might hold off until after Thanksgiving, but it’s holiday season at The Salvation Army. The organization on Tuesday laid out fundraising plans for the next six weeks, the crucial period that brings in about one-third of its yearly donations.
Last year, the county agency surpassed its goal, raising $158,000 through the Red Kettle Campaign and $245,000 in mail-in donations. Leaders hope to raise at least $345,000 through the two avenues this year, they said.
“We’re stretching ourselves to be looking for $400,000,” said Maj. Garry Lowder, local commander of The Salvation Army. “That will get us a little bit over one-third of our goal for our budget.”
The campaign that places volunteers outside area businesses for up to 60 hours a week leading up to Christmas is The Salvation Army’s most prominent fundraiser.
The Red Kettle Campaign counts on the help of hundreds of McHenry County volunteers.
Last year, The Salvation Army provided Christmas assistance to 625 families, translating to 3,155 individuals.
“At Christmastime, if a family is struggling to keep their gas on, keep their electric on, the last thing they can do is provide Christmas for their children,” said Linda Hunter, community relations and development representative for the local Salvation Army. “We provide gift cards for a meal – we also have holiday meal baskets – and we provide gifts for the children.”
Through the Angel Tree Program, businesses and organizations can sign up to receive angel ornaments that represent the gift wishes of area children.
The Salvation Army also is taking donations through a Gingerbread for The Salvation Army promotion in downtown Crystal Lake. Owners will place homemade gingerbread houses next to red kettles in their businesses, asking for votes of approval in the form of monetary donations.
Every penny put in a red kettle this winter will stay in the county, with 87 cents of every dollar fed back to the community through Salvation Army programs, Hunter said.
Maj. Nancy Lowder, who started in McHenry County with her husband in July, said the two have been impressed with the willingness of the county to give. “Each event that we share with you is amazing. Your community is amazing,” Nancy Lowder said. “I felt that the first day we pulled into Crystal Lake.”