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The drive moves forward

The Salvation Army has officially entered its kettle drive season as people are now hearing the jingle of bells at locations around Austin.

However, the SA is facing challenges like they haven’t seen before as they try to reach an $80,000 goal in the middle of a pandemic.

With the pandemic sticking in the cog of most everything, the SA is trying to raise money not only during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s also doing it while they are dealing with an uphill climb internally.

“It’s really been challenging,” said Major Jeff Stickler. “The needs are greater. The food shelf is helping a larger number of households and we’re finding we’re needing more volunteers.”

While the programs the Salvation Army uses to help those in need continue going forward, the SA is seeing weight put on its organization.

“It’s putting strains and stress and that’s true for our other programs,” Strickler said.

However, the kettle drive remains as important as ever as Strickler stresses that the money raised by the kettle drive needs to stretch past the holiday season.

Added to that, the SA is taking up some slack for the holidays. For instance, people still received the food the Salvation Army gave out so they could have a Thanksgiving meal, complete with all the trimmings.

Christmas is also a big time for the Salvation Army and they have every intention of going forward with its annual Feed A Family program.

“We’re going to do our Feed A Family this year with Hy-Vee on Dec. 16,” Strickler said adding, “This year St. Olaf won’t be able to do a Christmas Day meal so we’re going to do a Christmas Day meal.”

These programs, as well as the many other programs the Salvation Army runs, get help not only from people coming in and out of businesses, but from groups like the Shriners and Masons here in Austin.

This year they kicked the drive off with a $400 donation. However, the Shriners have been donating and ringing bells since the 1950s. Along with the traditional kick-off, the Shriners typically ring bells on Fridays throughout December.

The help of organizations like the Shriners and Masons has become invaluable to the Salvation Army.

“I think it’s quite rewarding to collect this money, which is matched, to help families,” said Neil Hanson, secretary/treasurer for the Shriners in Austin. “We will submit a grant request and ask that that be matched.”

And generally it is matched by the state organization.

Since 2010, the two organizations, along with matching grants, have raised $215,051 dollars to the Salvation Army.

“It’s a wonderful way to kick off our season,” Strickler said. “It inspires people to give and rejoice to see the community support the community.”