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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 3, 2010

Holiday generosity helps Salvation Army on Maui top fundraising goal too

The Maui News

KAHULUI, Maui - The Salvation Army on Maui exceeded its red kettle campaign goal in 2009, raising $157,900 and surpassing 2008's record collection.
"It's amazing given these tough economic times," said Capt. Mark Merritt, the Kahului Corps Maui coordinator.

The Salvation Army on Oahu announced Thursday that it, too, exceeded this year's fundraising goal.

Merritt said that his office considered the tough financial climate on Maui, where foreclosures and bankruptcy filings are soaring, and decided to set the 2009 fundraising goal below the $125,000 raised in 2008.

"But we were overwhelmed by the generosity of our friends here on Maui," he said Tuesday.

Between the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, volunteers and Salvation Army staff rang bells near red kettles at 17 sites - a dozen between Kihei and Kahului plus two first-time locations Upcountry and another five spots in West Maui.

Bell ringers said that they saw more dollar bills than coins being placed into the red kettles.

"We were shocked. . . . People just opened their hearts up," Merritt said.

He suspected that the financial troubles experienced across the state were hitting home with donors.

"Almost every one of us knows someone who is struggling. . . . I guess people figured they'd give even more."

The nearly $158,000 raised in a month's time represents approximately 7 percent of the Salvation Army's 2010 budget, according to Merritt. The money will be used throughout the year for youth programs and social services including rental assistance, utility payments and food boxes.

Merritt said that needy families won't have to choose between buying food or paying for their electricity bill.

"We can help these people thanks to Maui's generosity," he said.

The Salvation Army distributed 32,281 food bags to homeless clients between the end of 2008 and the end of 2009. Merritt said that the increase in the kettle campaign will allow for an estimated 40,000 food bags to be prepared for homeless and needy families in 2010.

He anticipates that all the services provided in 2009 will reach more people in 2010.

In addition to the kettle campaign, Salvation Army's Kahului Corps distributed toys, clothing and stocking stuffers to more than 1,000 children on Maui alone. Approximately 200 children on Molokai also benefited from the annual Angel Tree project.

Salvation Army operates the Toys for Tots campaign developed by the U.S. Marine Corps. Through that project, a total of 5,974 toys were collected and then distributed to 20 different agencies serving Maui children.

"I really believe people want to help, but they don't know how," he said. By donating to the red kettle campaign, the Angel Tree project and Toys for Tots, Merritt said, Maui residents were reaching out to the county's most needy.

"It'll make a difference in people's lives," he said.