The Ashland Citadel Salvation Army Corps proved Christmas miracles do exist by vastly exceeding its goal of $80,000 for this year’s Red Kettle Campaign.
This year’s drive netted $99,000, according to Capt. Patrick Richmond.
In the days before Christmas, Richmond voiced deep concern about the possibility of the organization not reaching its annual campaign goals, being $20,000 short a week before the holiday.
“We’re always concerned toward end of season when the weather looks like it did, with crazy rain and drastic changes in temperature over the Monday and Tuesday before Christmas,” he said. “It was in the back of our minds that it just didn’t seem like it was going to happen.”
Weather plays a major role in collecting donations for the mostly outdoor campaign. While bell-ringers still consistently man their posts, the general public for the most part avoids venturing out in the ugly conditions, Richmond said.
So how did the citadel manage to not only reach the $80,000 bar, but essentially soar over it in the past week?
“Lots of prayer,” Richmond said. “Every morning when we spoke with our bell-ringers, I prayed over them, encouraged them.”
Before the bells tolled each day, Richmond would update each group on the previous day’s progress and set new goals.
“I told them to get out there and smile and just talk to people donating, because obviously we can’t ask for money. Ring the bell, and wish them all a merry Christmas,” he said.
Richmond said he believed a large part of the collections emanated from the bell-ringers simply being personable with donors, who came from all walks of life to share their stories.
He was able to give personal testimony to this theory as he, too, rang bells at various locations.
“It was nice seeing the people, seeing donors and hearing their stories,” he said. “More often than not we couldn’t receive anything without people also giving a piece of advice or offering their thanks and gratitude for what the Salvation Army has done for them in the past or a family member.”
Richmond and his wife, Capt. Carey Richmond, transferred from the Madison, Tenn., citadel to the local corps during the summer. He said he was surprised at Ashland’s dedication to philanthropy during the holidays.
“My wife and I were over Salvation Armies previously; this is our fifth one. Ashland is amazing,” he said. “It’s a small town, but a close-knit family that we’re thrilled to be a part of.”
Funds collected during the campaign are used to help support the local corps with services like rent and utility assistance, outreach programs throughout the year, social services, clothing vouchers and maintaining emergency shelter operations, which are open 365 days a year from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
This year, the campaign was conducted from a number of local sites, including Russell and Ashland Kroger stores, Big Lots in Ashland, JC Penney and Belk in the Ashland Town Center, Food Fair in Ashland and Flatwoods, Foodland in Catlettsburg and Walmart stores in Ashland and Louisa.
LANA BELLAMY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2653.