Over the past few years, financial assistance provided to Champaign County residents by the Salvation Army has increased as the community continues to support the nonprofit’s mission “to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination.”
Michael Huber, service unit director for the Salvation Army Southwest Ohio and Northeast Kentucky Division, said that for fiscal year 2014-2015 (Oct. 1 through Sept. 30), the Salvation Army paid out $21,380 in assistance to county residents for help with rent, utilities, food and gasoline costs, up from $14,744 from the previous year. So far through the first two months of the current fiscal year, county residents have received $6,824 in assistance.
To provide these services in the county, Huber said, the Salvation Army relies on donations received during its annual Red Kettle Campaign, which kicks off around Thanksgiving and runs until Christmas Eve. This past Christmas season, Champaign County shoppers filled the iconic red kettles with nearly $23,000 (exact amount yet to be verified) in donations, up from $21,169 in 2014 and $19,642 in 2013.
“The Salvation Army is very grateful for the donations that were received,” Huber said, noting all donations collected in the county stay in the county. “It is a testament to the generosity and care put forth from the people in Champaign County toward their community. Without the support of the people of Champaign County, a lot of needs would go unmet.”
Huber added the 2015 Red Kettle Champaign was a success in the county not only because residents reached into their pockets and wallets to donate, but also because of those who volunteered their time to help keep watch over the red kettles.
“Without the help of some wonderful people from Champaign County ringing the bell at your local retailers, the donations would not have been collected,” he said.
This year, Salvation Army paid four people to ring bells in the county during the Red Kettle Campaign, but a majority of the bell ringers were unpaid volunteers from area churches, including Urbana Freewill Baptist Church, New Hope Church of Urbana, Concord United Methodist Church and Grafton United Methodist Church in St. Paris.
“They (volunteers) did this out of a love for their community and did not seek compensation or recognition,” Huber said.
The nearly $23,000 collected this past Christmas season won’t be made available to the public until the Salvation Army’s next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. Currently, Salvation Army is providing assistance to Champaign County residents through donations collected in 2014.
“If during a fiscal year, more assistance is needed than the funds originally collected and set aside, we have a general fund that can be used to help with the additional need in an area,” Huber said. “As a presence in a community, we try to stay within the donations collected in that area. If we need a little more, we use some additional money from that general fund.”
County residents in need of assistance through the Salvation Army can inquire about help by calling a representative at 937-484-4244 or by visiting the nonprofit’s local office – open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday – located inside the Community Thrift Store at 127 Scioto St. in Urbana.
“Through our office in the Community Thrift Store, we have and will continue to provide assistance to residents of Champaign County,” Huber said. “Most of the assistance we provide is help with rent and utilities. We have also provided assistance with food and gasoline. The gasoline assistance would help a client get to doctor appointments, hospital visits, job interviews, and other necessary services.”
In most instances, assistance can only be received once per calendar year.
“There can be extenuating circumstances where this policy would have to be flexible, but once per year is the norm,” Huber said.
As for the Salvation Army’s downtown Urbana office, at its current location since 2007, a move could take place in the near future if the right location becomes available.
“The new space will be located somewhere in Champaign County if we find one that meets our needs,” Huber said. “If a new space is not located, we will remain in our space inside the Community Thrift Store on Scioto Street.
“A move is not imminent. It is merely an idea to see if we can increase our visibility in the community,” he added.
Salvation Army formerly ran the local thrift store but stopped that service recently. Local organizations teamed up to keep the thrift store open as Community Thrift Store, where Salvation Army is retaining its office presence.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.