The Hattiesburg Salvation Army is hundreds of thousands of dollars short of its 2015 goal with just 16 days left of of red kettle bell ringing.
"We change goals every year based on the need," Lt. Stacey Connelly said. "This year we set our goal at a lofty $300,000. Currently, we haven't even raised $100, 000 just yet. We're urging and pleading with the community to please just give what you can."
Connelly said while the Salvation Army is most visible during the red kettle bell ringing, it is important to realize the money raised during the holiday season need to stretch throughout the entire next year.
"People don't realize that the Salvation Army in the United States helps 30 million people a year, which means every 30 seconds, the Salvation Army is helping someone in need," she said. "So need knows no season. We have our doors open 365 days a year, so the money that we raise in December will help fund programs in July, August, September. The entire year round. We're able to feed people in need. We're able to have our shelter open. We're able to supply fans with the elderly in the summertime, and so really, the money we raise at Christmas is our greatest fundraising effort."
Connelly had an easy solution to make what seems like a massive undertaking more palatable.
"I'm sure that a lot of people have loose change in their car," she said. "I know I do, and if every person in Forrest, Lamar and Perry counties were to donate just $4, which would buy you a cup of coffee or even a Happy Meal, and put that money in the red kettle, we would meet our goal with no problem."
This year, Connelly said they are trying to make it easier to donate by opening an online link and a "text to donate" option.
"You can text "HUB" to 71777, and that will also take you directly to our link where you can donate online," Connelly said. "That is a new feature for us this year, but we're trying to meet the demands of the public. Everything is technologically advanced these days, and so if it's right there at your fingertips, it makes it much more easy to give."
Connelly said she is also looking for volunteers and workers to be bell ringers, and anyone interested should call the office at 601.544.3684 for information. She said one of her favorite parts of the holiday fundraiser is actually going out and being a bell ringer herself.
"The best thing about the Salvation Army is that we do meet basic human needs year round," she said. "One of the biggest blessings is whenever you are able to stand at the red kettle and hear some of the stories of instances when individuals have received assistance, and they say, 'I never thought that I would be in need, but the Salvation Army was there.' That's what bring me such joy is hearing those stories of World War II veterans receiving coffee and doughnuts as they deployed or as they returned home. Or parents that were affected by the tornado or even by Hurricane Katrina."