Friday, June 21, 2024

Lions, Salvation Army partner to help local residents

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The Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign made a big comeback in Gatesville in 2022. That was only the beginning, as the Gatesville Lions Club steps up to the plate to help provide volunteers and lead the effort to collect funds — 100% of which will be used to benefit local residents during times of need.

During a recent Lions Club meeting, members of the Lions Club who are helping to lead the efforts spoke about efforts to raise funds through the Salvation Army Gatesville Service Unit to help local residents when they have financial struggles.

The Red Kettle campaign, which begins in late November and continues until just before Christmas each year, raises money that is used entirely for the benefit of local charity. None of the money collected from the campaign is sent to national headquarters. In fact, actions taken by the national organization and local Salvation Army volunteers are entirely separate.

"Some people said they didn't want to donate (to the Red Kettle campaign) last year because the Salvation Army gave money to the prisons," Creek said. "That's the national group. Our local funds go to benefit people like single mothers who have a financial crisis or older people who may have a hard time paying a bill, and it stays in Gatesville and other areas or Coryell County except for Copperas Cove. Cove has its own (Salvation Army unit).

"These funds are also used for emergency assistance such as when people are displaced by a fire. We help people on an as-needed basis."

Creek manages the local funds and said rather than give cash to people in need, vouchers are given for people to take to H-E-B or checks are written to utility companies to pay bills.

"One of the stipulations is we can only help you one time per year, and the cap is $300," he said. "We don't want to run out of funds, and we want to help as many people as possible."

Those who need financial help can visit the Salvation Army Emergency Assistance Office, located in the Gatesville Senior Center, 208 N. Lutterloh Drive, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday or Wednesday.

Creek said fundraising efforts are making an impact locally, and he expects things to get even better.

"I think we're going to be very effective in the future," he said. "We're going to raise more money than ever before."

Annette Cole, the assistance secretary for the Gatesville Salvation Army Unit, said additional volunteers are needed to help those seeking financial help.

"Right now we have a group of ladies on the first Wednesday of every month, but we need more help," she said. "What volunteers do is take basic information from applicants and financial information from people who come in. We need help making copies, and if someone comes in with a bill that's $325, we try to help them get the extra $25 to cover it.

"We will gladly welcome volunteer help, and people can split a shift and work 8 to 11 or 11 to 1."

Jeremy Stills, chairman of the Red Kettle Campaign, said 2022 was a learning process. It was the first year the Gatesville Lions Club helped lead the collection efforts.

"I learned quickly that there's a lot more involved than setting up a kettle and getting a lot of volunteers," he said. "The plan is to double what we brought in last year. Joyce Talbott (a Lions Club member) really helped us a lot and made things so much better and easier.

"This is a great effort to help our community, and I'm excited and happy to be a part of it. The Red Kettle is right now our only way of raising money (for the Gatesville Salvation Army Service Unit) to distribute in our community, so it's very important. One hundred percent of the money stays local — none of these funds collected go outside our area."

This year's Red Kettle Campaign is scheduled to begin Nov. 24 and continue through Dec. 23. Volunteers are needed to ring bells next to the kettle in two-hour shifts from noon to 2 p.m., 2-4 p.m. or 4-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. No collections are taken on Sundays.

The campaign raised $8,000 in 2022.

Because this is a communitywide outreach, people do not have to be Lions Club members to volunteer. Churches and civic groups can get involved in the Red Kettle Campaign as well.

Stills said a Facebook page is being set up for the Gatesville Salvation Army Service Unit, which will have a link for people interested in volunteering. People can also mail checks to benefit the Gatesville Salvation Army Service Unit to P.O. Box 213, Gatesville, Texas, 76528.