The Salvation Army, whose bell-ringing charity drive has long been associated with the spirit of holiday giving, enters its busiest time of the year Wednesday with the Kettle Kick-Off Soup Luncheon annual fundraiser at 11:30 a.m.
On Friday, it will distribute the kettles into which thousands of dollars will be donated. On Nov. 23, Salvation Army Spokane will distribute turkeys and Thanksgiving preparations to long lines of neighbors in need.
Last week, Sheila Geraghty, Salvation Army business manager, discussed the charity’s various programs, which depend so much on the generosity of Spokane residents.
Q. When and how did the turkey distribution begin?
A. The Salvation Army has always given out Thanksgiving baskets, but in 1998, when the Kaiser Aluminum Plant strike took place and thousands of people were left without jobs and income, it gave away 700 turkey dinners. The next year, it gave away 1,000, and this was the first year it decided to do a mass distribution out of the Salvation Army’s community center gym.
Q. How many people has the turkey distribution served over the years?
A. We estimate we have given out almost 40,000 turkeys since 1998, including 6,809 last year. This year we are ordering 8,000 turkeys and meal preparations in conjunction with Second Harvest Food Bank and Tom’s Turkey Tuesday.
Q. Are donations to Salvation Army keeping up with need in these tough economic times?
A. We are seeing more people who have never asked for services before.
At the same time, donations are becoming more challenging. We have to ask more people because we are getting smaller amounts.
We are $8,000 short of the $20,000 Clothe-a-Child shopping spree, and only eight organizations have stepped up to participate in the Adopt-a-Family program. However, our largest families – two families of seven and four families of six – were the first to be adopted for Christmas.
Q. How much was raised in the Red Kettle Campaign in recent years?
A. Salvation Army Spokane raised $347,290 last year, $229,282 in 2008, and $235,807 in 2007.
In 2008, we had 6 feet of snow and we could not send out our kettles on two of the biggest days before Christmas. But another reason we collected so much more last year was the publicity over someone dropping a gold coin worth $1,500 in the kettle at Fred Meyer Wandermere, our most successful location, historically.
Q. How do future Christmases look to the Salvation Army?
A. I am amazed at what a giving community Spokane is and its compassion for people less fortunate. We proceed day-by-day very cautiously, however, because of the economy and its effect on our private donors, as well as state and local government.
We have seen decreased funding for social services, but if any of our funding for children’s programs were cut, that would be the worst. They are the ones that can’t help themselves.