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Red Kettle campaign urges generous giving

Lorrel Popp takes a turn at ringing the Salvation Army bell at Econofoods in New Richmond on Saturday.

Salvation Army volunteers will be ringing their bells a little harder this holiday season.

Due to challenging economic times, St. Croix County Salvation Army Director Duana Bremer said more people are seeking financial help from the non-profit organization.

"Demand for our services has increased over 500 percent," she said. "This is the toughest we've ever seen it."

Bremer said calls for help aren't just coming from unemployed residents. Many people who have full-time jobs are finding it hard to make ends meet today.

"They're working, but they're saying they won't be able to afford Christmas this year," she said. "We've never gotten calls like this before. It's really scary."

Bremer said she doesn't expect a turn-around in the economy any time soon, which could put many more people on the edge of financial stress.

She noted that the Salvation Army's new facility in Balsam Lake, Serenity House, has 17 homeless residents today. Fifteen of those residents have been cleared to work, but none of them have been able to find a job yet.

"With the economic downturn, it's getting tough out there to find a job," she said.

And, Bremer said, a number of businesses in the area are apparently planning major lay-offs in the near future, which will make the local economic crunch even worse.

That's why Salvation Army services are so important for area residents, Bremer said.

The local Salvation Army organization offers financially-strapped families help with rent and utility payments, along with transportation and medication assistance.

But available assistance funds are being distributed more quickly than previous years, Bremer reported, and the Salvation Army coffers could run dry half way through 2009 if donations don't increase.

That's why this year's Red Kettle campaign at local stores is so important. Salvation Army officials are asking local residents to dig a little deeper in their pockets for extra money to donate if they can afford to, Bremer said. The organization promises to put the donations to good use in the community.

"Eighty-nine percent of all funds raised in St. Croix County are used to support residents in our area," Bremer said.

The Salvation Army goal in St. Croix County is $100,000 this year. To accomplish that goal, Bremer said the bell ringer shifts need to be filled at all the established Red Kettle sites.

"We need bell ringers at the stores more this year than ever before," she said.

Anyone who can ring bells from now through Dec. 24 is urged to call Amy at 715-554-7127 to set up a time that works for you or your family.

Red Kettle sites include:

New Richmond

Wal-Mart and Econofoods. Call Amy at 715-554-7127.


Roberts Grocery. Call Amy at 715-554-7127.


County Market, Family Fresh, Wal-Mart, Fleet Farm and Papa Murphy's. Contact Lori at 247-2944.


Nilssen's. Contact Claire at 715-684-2465.