PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A perfect storm of unprecedented need and far fewer kettle donations has the Salvation Army seeking help to rescue Christmas.
Donations through the charity organization's red kettles in Pittsfield are currently down by 70 percent compared to last year and it's struggling to meet its fundraising target by about $33,000.
"We went into the season honestly unsure if we were even going to be able to ring the bell," Captain Justin Barter, corps officer in Pittsfield, said Tuesday. "We were grateful that we could ring the bell but the numbers are still significantly down."
Now in its 130th year, the kettle campaign launched two months earlier than usual because of increased needs. It raised just over $27,000 as of Monday with this year's goal being $60,000 raised by Dec. 24.
COVID-19 has created a larger need for services provided by the Salvation Army: it's served more than 14 million meals in the state since March and it expects to serve 150 percent more people this holiday season.
Though the novel coronavirus has created an increase in need, it has also reduced the number of red kettles that can put out on street corners and at store entrances.
Nationwide, the Salvation Army expects as much as a 50 percent decrease in funds raised through its Rescue Christmas Red Kettles campaign because of customers carrying less cash, the closure of many retail stores where kettles traditionally stand, an increase in online shopping, and increased unemployment and debt.
Barter said numbers are also drastically down for local help as many bell ringers have pre-existing conditions that put them in the high-risk category for COVID-19.
Heather MacFarlane, director of communications, marketing, and public relations, said some people who used to be donors are now requesting assistance.
"When COVID-19 struck, we anticipated that it could be an extremely difficult year for multiple reasons," she said.
According to Barter, the numbers for assistance through the organization's food pantry have been record-breaking for months, reflecting the hard time that citizens are experiencing.
In 2019, the Salvation Army served just over 3 million meals to people in need and that number skyrocketed to a staggering 14 million meals just between the months of March and November.
"Although I'm concerned that donations are down, I remain hopeful we can still make our fundraising goal this year," wrote Captain Marsha Barter. "This community has a history of putting its hands and feet in service of its prayers and supporting the Salvation Army's efforts to help our most vulnerable brothers and sisters. Even as we face a tsunami of need, which we don't anticipate diminishing for many, many months, I believe our community will rally around us again this year."
Donations can be made to the Salvation Army online or by check to 298 West St., Pittsfield, MA 01201. A recurring of donation of $25 means 240 meals to those most vulnerable, 11 nights of shelter for those living on the streets, 12 years of Christmas presents for one child.
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Pittsfield Native Killed In Air Force Crash
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The body of Staff Sgt. Jacob Galliher was recovered off the coast of Japan after the military aircraft he was on crashed Wednesday.
The Pittsfield Police Department released a statement noting that Galliher was a 2017 graduate of Taconic High School.
The statement included that Galliher leaves behind his wife and 2-year-old and 6-week-old sons.
The Associated Press reported that on Nov. 29, an Air Force Osprey based in Japan crashed during a training mission off the country's southern coast. It was reported that the crash killed at least one of the eight crew members.
At this time, the status of the seven other airmen is unknown. The cause of the crash is also unknown.
Taconic High School Principal Matthew Bishop said the school is in mourning after learning of Galliher's death.
"Jake was a proud member of the Class of 2017 and was known for his exemplary character, leadership qualities, and commitment to Taconic High School. He was an outstanding student, an integral member of our football program, and an active participant in our school community. Many staff members remember his kind, fun-loving spirit and how much he positively impacted our school," he wrote in a statement released Friday afternoon. "After graduation, Jake chose to serve our country with valor and dedication, joining the Air Force. The news of his tragic and untimely passing has left Taconic in mourning, as we reflect on the loss of a bright and promising individual who embodied the values that we hope to instill in all of our students."
There are a variety of holiday-themed events this weekend to get yourself into the festive spirit including tree lightings, live music, a brunch, and more. Find a full list of holiday bazaars and fairs here; upcoming holiday events can be found here.
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Ward 1 Councilor Kenneth Warren, Ward 2 Councilor Charles Kronick and at-Large Councilor Karen Kalinowsky spoke against the proposal that would increase the average homeowner's bill by 8.75 percent.
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