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Salvation Army overcomes many pandemic obstacles

Two local divisions of the Salvation Army have announced successful Red Kettle campaigns despite the challenges they faced. Many businesses and individuals stepped up in other ways, including hosting food drives. Salvation Army Bread of Life Assistance Center volunteer Hazel Clark, left, and Director Tara Blagec stock the pantry shelves at the center in Kingsford. (Iron Mountain Daily News photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — The Salvation Army prides itself on “doing the most good,” even in the most difficult times.

One challenge the agency has faced is fundraising during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the obstacles, two local divisions of the Salvation Army still were able to collect needed donations during the annual Red Kettle Campaign.

The Salvation Army Bread of Life Assistance Center of Dickinson County raised $61,747 from its kettles and bellringers.

“This total doesn’t include ‘white mail’ funds — meaning those that mailed donations directly,” Director Tara Blagec said. “This is close to what we have received the last couple years.”

This came despite a significate drop in volunteers for a second straight year, cutting the amount of time the kettles can be at the stores to collect donations. Only 276 of the 1,400 time slots were filled for the 2021 campaign.

“It was a little disheartening but when volunteers were out there ringing, people were generous,” Dickinson County Salvation Army Case Manager Jennifer Witte said. “If we would have had more slots filled it would have been amazing, but we are so appreciative of those that did.”

Blagec noted all their kettles are staffed by volunteers; they do not pay like some locations. The Salvation Army acknowledges all the stores that hosted the kettles, including Super One, Tadych’s Family Market and Walmart in Iron Mountain; Kingsford Ace Hardware; Pat’s Foods of Norway; and Northwoods IGA in Niagara, Wis.

They also were able to generate funds from counter kettles, which helped make up for fewer bellringers.

“We are thankful for all those who allowed us in their businesses,” Witte said.

They received extra support from the community in other ways as well, including grants, food drives, additional fundraisers and the Angel Tree program. Several businesses stepped up with food drives or other activities to spur donations.

Many employers, too, conduct special events from within, such as “Denim Day,” to generate funds for the Salvation Army.

“This is huge, since last year we were unable to conduct the food drive because of COVID,” Blagec stressed. “This is also financially important to us, as then we don’t have to take funds out of the kettle donations to meet the need of the food pantry.”

Some of those who participated were Erickson Jewelers, Wildwood Reality and Miller Agency.

“Each month they (Miller Agency) will continue the drive, focusing on collecting different items each month, like cleaning supplies, paper products, etc.,” Witte said.

“People had fun with the food drives this year,” Blagec added.

The winner of the “Can It” food drive was First Bank in Iron Mountain, which designed a bellringer figure from donated can goods.

They also appreciate all area students — including members of student councils, Youth Advisory Council, LEO Club and CCD classes — who contributed in some way by either ringing bells at the kettles, hosting drives or donating to the Angel Tree program.

Students from Bishop Baraga Catholic School went shopping for the Angel Tree program.

“That was so awesome,” Witte said.

“All in all, the community didn’t just focus on one area, they did multiple things to covered it all — they really came together,” Blagec noted. “I feel it was successful.”

All money raised during the Red Kettle Campaign stays within that area.

“We will not have to modify any of their services,” Blagec stressed. “We will still have our ‘boots on the ground.'”

For more information or to seek assistance, contact the Salvation Army Bread of Life Assistance Center of Dickinson County at 906-779-5717.

The Salvation Army of Florence County took in $6,230.76 during its fundraising campaign.

“The response was so gratifying,” said Karen Wertanen, campaign coordinator. “The donations raised will be used locally to help those in need throughout 2022 — we know there are many families who will benefit from these funds.”

The Florence County Salvation Army Board is grateful to all the residents, visitors and businesses who supported the 2021 Red Kettle Campaign.

They also had fewer volunteer bellringers due to issues with the pandemic. The Florence County Salvation Army Board also relied on donations from counter kettles at businesses within the county, as well as individuals who contributed to the new online site or at the Great North Bank in Florence, Wis.

The board thanks Pat’s Foods, Family Dollar, the Florence BP Station and Barb’s Cafe in Florence; Big Foot Liquors in Spread Eagle, Wis.; and Tom & Jo’s Liquor Store in Aurora, Wis., for having the small red kettles on their counters.

In addition, Big Foot Liquors did a successful promotion with proceeds given to the Salvation Army.

They also acknowledge those who were able to volunteer to ring the bell at Pat’s Foods in Florence, Christmas in Florence and at the Aurora BP/Liquor Store. A special thanks went out as well to Holly Stratton for assisting with scheduling the Aurora volunteers; to Florence Utilities, Edward’s Automotive, Homestead Baptist Church, Fence Bible Church, First Presbyterian Church and the American Legion for their donations; and to all who contributed directly at Great North Bank or online.

“You all are a blessing to those in need who so appreciate Salvation Army assistance throughout the year,” Wertanen said.

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