By JOE LoTEMPLIO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — With a dozen small angels leading the way, Plattsburgh Salvation Army kicked off its annual kettle drive Thursday with hopes of helping more of the needy.
“We rely so much on the support we get from the community, and we are relying on that more than ever today, and I think most of us know why,” Salvation Army Envoy Frank Smith said.
“It is getting so much more important because of the reality of the dollar and the economy going in one direction, and the needs are going in another.”
Smith, Salvation Army Advisory Board Chairman William Ferris and Plattsburgh Town Supervisor Bernard Bassett kicked off the kettle drive at an event at Champlain Centre.
The mall will be one of about 20 sites around the community where the familiar red kettles will be set up to take donations, aided by volunteer bell-ringers.
The kettle drive has been going on in the area since the Salvation Army first started its Plattsburgh operation in 1914.
It serves as the organization’s major fundraiser, not just for the holiday season but in sponsoring year-round efforts.
And every nickel counts.
“We see the disparity between the haves and have-nots, and there are lot of ways we can help,” Bassett said.
“So ask your friends, neighbors and relatives to throw that pocket change in the kettle when they walk by. It really does add up.”
In 2012, the local Salvation Army served 14,499 meals in its soup kitchen; served 275 meals on Thanksgiving; distributed bread, deli items and fresh produce to 11,872 individuals; served 290 households through its food pantry; assisted 891 people with clothing; distributed Christmas dinner to 96 households; gave toys to 177 children for Christmas; and doled out more than 400 gifts to residents in nursing-care facilities.
The Salvation Army raised about $120,000 in 2011, Smith said, but last year, that figure was down to about $100,000.
He said the money raised during the holiday kettle drive is a must to continue those efforts.
“We hope to get at least as much this year as we did last year,” he said.
Thursday’s event was highlighted by a performance from the Peru Little Angels preschool carolers, who sang several Christmas-themed songs under the direction of Mary Jane Wilkins as parents and grandparents proudly snapped photographs.
“Aren’t they adorable,” Smith said.
Email Joe LoTemplio:firstname.lastname@example.org
With 20 kettle sites scattered around the Plattsburgh area through Christmas Eve, the Salvation Army is in need of volunteers to ring the bells over the next six weeks.
Those interested in helping can contact the Plattsburgh office on South Catherine Street at 561-2951.