Portland-area Salvation Army kettles well short of full

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PORTLAND — The Salvation Army’s annual holiday fundraising campaign, which last year assisted more than 4,600 Portland-area residents, is itself in need of assistance.

The local Red Kettle Campaign has raised about $51,000, but that’s $14,000 short of the amount collected by this point in the 2012 drive, Maj. Steve Ditmer, the Salvation Army’s Portland corps officer, said on Monday.

This year’s fundraising has a goal of $160,000, but he said donations are down because there are only four weeks between Thanksgiving, which fell on Nov. 28, and Christmas, Dec. 25. Last year, there were five weeks between the holidays.

This year’s campaign started Nov. 9 and ends Dec. 24. “But people’s giving spirit doesn’t really kick in until about Thanksgiving,” Ditmer said.

In addition, fundraising at three area Walmart stores wasn’t allowed to start until after Thanksgiving, per company policy, he added.

For more than 120 years, the Salvation Army has collected money in its iconic red kettles on street corners and in retailers and shopping malls. Nearly two dozen kettles dot the Portland area, including locations in Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Scarborough and South Portland.

Donations can also be made by credit or debit cards at the Salvation Army website. While the website represents the group’s branches nationwide, donations made online are channeled to help local residents.

The holiday contributions, representing about 30 percent of the group’s funding, are used to provide toys, food, winter coats and other items for area residents throughout the year.

The lagging economy has created “a huge upsurge in demands for help,” Ditmer said. “It’s critical that we at least match last year’s giving.”

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or whall@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.