Salvation Army of Baton Rouge's annual kettle drive comes up short

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Salvation Army of Baton Rouge's annual Red Kettle fundraiser came up short this December.

Overall, people tossed $309,000 into the kettles this past month, which is far less than the $450,000 they budgeted for. It's also less than then $355,000 they raised last year, just months after the historic flood.

"That impacts everything that we do," said Miriam Overton, director of development for the Salvation Army of Baton Rouge. She says before the flood, they regularly brought in $450,000 through the Red Kettle drive – their biggest fundraiser of the year.

Locally, the Salvation Army touches many parts of the community. They offer an after-school program, drug rehab for men, and a shelter on cold nights. They also provide rental, utility, and food assistance to families in need. Overton says they are good at stretching a dollar, but the latest fundraiser shortage could create even more of a challenge. "Some of our services and programming will have to be cut back if we don't make that up by the end of the year," she said.

Overton says the bad weather and a shortage of bell ringers are to blame for this year's shortfall. "When we miss a couple of days of good bell ringing at the kettles, it really impacts the bottom line," she said.

However, it's not just the kettles leaving them on a shoe-string budget. Since the flood, they have not been getting any income from their family store on Airline Highway. It took on over 5 ft. of water during the August 2016 flood and still has not been rebuilt. That means they are missing out on approximately $70,000 of potential income each month.

Added to that, the high waters also ruined their headquarters and the rehab facility; they are still working on repairing both.

For now, they are hopeful that even though the kettles have been put away, people will continue to donate so they can continue to give back. "With community support, we're able to do the most good for those in the most need," she said.

While the Red Kettle drive may be over, the Salvation Army still accepts donations year-round. Click here to donate online. You can also call Overton at 225-355-4483. Donations can also be mailed to: P.O. Box 15467, Baton Rouge, LA 70895.

Overton says donations made to the Baton Rouge branch of the Salvation Army stay locally in the capital region and are put toward their programming. They say about 83 cents of every dollar donated goes toward programming.

Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved.