The holiday Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign exceeded its $100,000 goal, allowing the agency to help more struggling residents with food and other assistance.
The Columbus church and social service agency raised $107,938 — the most in the three years since Lt. Alan Sladek and Lt. Jodi Sladek have been leading the ministry at 2525 Illinois St.
It hit that mark with a push that amazed the husband-and-wife leaders at a time in December when it looked like the campaign might barely reach last year’s mark of $82,000.
They found some kettles holding checks of $500 and more.
“I can’t exactly explain it,” said Alan Sladek, who suspected public pleas through local media helped. “It’s got to be God. I realize some people may not believe that, but it’s the only way I can say it.”
The total was surprising because some days from mid-November through mid-December, various kettle locations went unmanned because bell ringers being paid
$8 an hour sometimes didn’t show up during a stretch of cold weather, Alan Sladek said. That was one factor that left the campaign running behind.
“Still,” Jodi Sladek said, “people need to realize that money (budgeted for all year) can go quickly. We say all along that need knows no season. And it’s not just a figure of speech.”
For example, the agency’s food pantry visits were up 25 to 30 percent last year over 2012, according to the Sladeks. And in the past two weeks alone, 43 new families totaling 134 people have visited the pantry for help.
Pantry expenses have jumped as much as 40 percent in some recent months, they said.
Some new clients have surfaced recently for other aid covered by the Red Kettle Campaign. One 90-year-old resident on a fixed income recently got help for utilities, for instance.
“And since it has been so cold, we’re expecting to see more people who need help,” said Neva Reeves, the Salvation Army’s case worker.
The campaign also supports summer camp for area youth at Hidden Falls Camp near Bedford. Generally, the more money collected in a campaign, the more children may be sent, the Sladeks said.
About 78 percent of donated Salvation Army dollars go directly to helping others, Alan Sladek said.