Salvation Army Needs Support More than Ever
FITCHBURG -- Santa Claus looked just a little out of place Saturday morning.
Rather than fallen snow, it was orange leaves that had accumulated in drifts on the ground outside the Salvation Army’s Water Street office. Inside was an autumnal display set up for Thanksgiving, still nearly two weeks away.
Christmas is coming a little earlier this year, but as Salvation Army Envoy Lynette Valentine explained, there’s a very good reason for that.
“Last year we didn’t hit our goal and I’ll be honest, the last three months we struggled financially, but we haven’t stopped,” she told a crowd of families and volunteers gathered Saturday.
This was the official kick-off to the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle Campaign, an effort that seeks to raise the $90,000 needed to sustain the local services provided by the Salvation Army. This year’s start date, which is about a week earlier than last year, was necessitated by the growing need for help in the community.
“We normally get our Thanksgiving turkeys donated and we always get an abundance. It’s something like 300 turkeys,” said Valentine. “A week ago we got a phone call and found out we weren’t getting those so we’re starting a week early to take care of those families.”
Providing hundreds of holiday meals may be a massive undertaking, but it is only one of the services provided by the Salvation Army in the communities of Fitchburg, Leominster, and Lunenburg that this year’s volunteers are trying to raise money for.
Donations brought in will also pay for youth programs, fuel assistance, rent assistance, and various holiday-related expenses for local residents. The money will also help pay for ongoing disaster relief efforts the Salvation Army’s Fitchburg chapter is currently involved with, however Valentine said the biggest portion of the money will be going toward the food pantry.
Several local elected officials were present Saturday for the campaign kick-off, including Mayor Stephen DiNatale, who praised Valentine’s work in Fitchburg.
“What Lynette always needs every year is for people to help out and we’re right now trying to get people to do that,” he said. “And if you can’t giver her your time, give her your money.”
Equipped with bells and collection kettles, volunteers will be stationed throughout Fitchburg, Leominster and Lunenburg from now until the end of the holiday season.
One difference this year will be the campaign’s progress being charted by a Christmas tree that has been placed in front of the Salvation Army’s Water Street office. Lights that have been wrapped around the tree will begin glowing at its base and spread higher as more money comes in. When the Salvation Army meets its $90,000 goal, the star atop the tree will begin to glow.
“We want something bright,” said Valentine. “We want something to say that we’re going to light up the town.”
Follow Peter Jasinski on Twitter @PeterJasinski53