By SUZANNE MOORE
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Demand for Salvation Army services is up, but Red Kettle Drive totals are down so far this holiday season.
At about this point in 2011, bell ringers in and around Plattsburgh had brought in about $16,000 more than has so far filled the kettles this year, according to Corps Assistant Jim Russell Jr. of the Plattsburgh Service Center.
"It's probably a combination of things," he said.
A large factor is an agreement inked between Salvation Army nationwide and Wal-Mart and Price Chopper that allows red kettles to set up at just one set of doors at each store.
So, many enter and leave those stores from other doors without passing a bell ringer inviting donations.
The poor economy, which drives the need for the Salvation Army's services, also may be contributing to fewer donations.
"It is showing signs of improvement," Russell said of the economic climate, "but we're seeing, still at this point, a greater demand for services."
People may have shifted some of their giving to the victims of Hurricane Sandy — "that may be playing a little bit into it."
SOUP KITCHEN BUSY
Last year, the campaign raised about $120,000.
Red Kettles are set up at 13 sites, mostly in Plattsburgh, but one each in Peru, Dannemora and Champlain, as well.
The money collected stays in the community it came from, Russell noted.
"It all goes to help out all of our programs."
The thrice-weekly soup kitchen offers proof positive of the need.
"On any given day, we can average from 60 to 100 (diners)," Russell said.
The funds are used to keep the food pantry stocked, allow financial help for such emergency needs as rent and utilities, support the clothing-assistance program and more.
The Kettle Campaign ends Christmas Eve.
Giving tends to step up in the final days of the campaign, Russell said.
"I personally am not worried," he said. "We won't collect one penny less or one penny more than God wishes us to.
"Since he's in charge, I don't have any worries at all."
Email Suzanne Moore:
email@example.comSALVATION ARMY SERVICES The Salvation Army Service Center is located at 4804 South Catherine St., Plattsburgh. The soup kitchen serves up meals at 11:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The food pantry is open 9:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Financial assistance is determined on a case-by-case basis. For information, call 563-5431.