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Brainerd Salvation Army exceeds Red Kettle fundraiser goal

The Brainerd Lakes Salvation Army surpassed its Red Kettle Campaign fundraising goal of $155,000 even though the nonprofit struggled initially to find volunteers for its annual signature fundraiser that took place with the number of COVID-19 cases on the rise again this Christmas.

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Veteran bell ringer "Grandma Happy Hats" offers candy to John Gable after making a donation Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in the Salvation Army Red Kettle drive at Cub Foods in Baxter. Thursday was the kick-off for the annual drive after a visit by the Salvation Army board and captains. The sounds of the volunteer bell ringers is a sure sign of the coming of the holidays. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Capt. Jeff Curran of the Brainerd Lakes Salvation Army has a lot to be thankful for this Christmas season.

The nonprofit again surpassed its Red Kettle Campaign goal of $155,000 — by about $30,000 in donations this year — for a total of $185,000, according to The Salvation Army officer.

RELATED: Brainerd Lakes Salvation Army reaches Christmas fundraising goal

“That surprised us very much, actually,” Curran said Wednesday, Dec. 29, when the numbers were crunched. “I’ve always known this was a very generous and giving community but that just blew us away.”

Fundraising volunteers were initially in short supply at the start of December, according to Curran, with the number of COVID-19 cases on the rise again and about 1,700 bell-ringing hours to fill.

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RELATED: Brainerd Lakes Salvation Army in need of committed volunteers for Red Kettle help

“Eventually, we had a lot of people come out and sign up to volunteer to ring, so it was very good,” Curran said. “There were several who volunteered for the first time this year.”

The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign is its largest fundraiser. The iconic annual wintertime effort netted about $173,000 for the Brainerd Lakes Salvation Army in 2020 — almost $18,000 more than it set out to do.


"I’ve always known this was a very generous and giving community but that just blew us away."

— Capt. Jeff Curran


“What happens when we do that is this allows us to provide more services than we had anticipated throughout the rest of the fiscal year, so I mean it's a good thing,” Curran said.

In early December, the faith-based nonprofit was having trouble getting kettle locations staffed with bell ringers throughout the day for the fundraiser that ends Christmas Eve.

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Adeline Rasinski places a donation in Sarah's Salvation Army Red Kettle Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, at Cub Foods in Baxter. With Salvation Army board members and captains present, the annual fundraising drive kick-off began Thursday. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

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“They probably just had not added it to their schedule yet,” Curran said of the last-minute turnout of bell-ringing volunteers for this year’s Red Kettle Campaign.

Individuals, groups and organizations could sign up to volunteer for a two-hour shift and could sign up for as little as just one bell-ringing session.

RELATED: Ringing a Salvation Army kettle bell as easy as a drop in the bucket

“The money raised could be used for things like buying food for the food shelf, to help pay rent, to help pay utilities. It can be used for, really, any number of things,” Curran said of the $185,000 raised this year.

Curran said the majority of donations come when someone is at the red kettle to greet those who donate. But when there are no bell ringers at the red kettle station, The Salvation Army leaves a stand with a QR code for passersby to scan with their smartphones to donate.

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“Some people gave that way and others just didn't,” Curran said. “And that's, you know, technology — it's a kind of a new thing — and it takes a while for it to catch on.”

The goal in 2019 and 2020 was also to raise $155,000 from red kettles in Brainerd, Baxter, Nisswa and Pequot Lakes. But there were 600 fewer hours of ringing — and half the number of volunteers in 2020 — compared to the previous year,

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“Usually when we do our budget, we look at what's the minimum we need to get through the year,” Curran said. “But every year, the need increases. And it's hard for us to estimate how much that's going to increase.”

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchFL .

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Adeline Rasinski places a donation in Sarah's Salvation Army Red Kettle Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, at Cub Foods in Baxter. With Salvation Army board members and captains present, the annual fundraising drive kick-off began Thursday. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Related Topics: NONPROFITS
I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write articles for the Wadena Pioneer Journal weekly newspaper owned by Forum Communications Co.
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