Salvation Army gears up for another busy holiday season

The work never really slows down at the Salvation Army in Marshalltown — COVID or no COVID, the organization has families to help.

“COVID, actually, it affected us in the way that we serve, but not necessarily in our numbers. We still see about 200 families a month for food,” Captain Pam Kasten said. “We haven’t stopped any of our programming or the ability to serve. It just looks a little bit different.”

In addition to the donations the Salvation Army collects every year, Kasten said they received grants to assist families affected by the virus with their rent and utility payments. Because of the pandemic, the Salvation Army did not host a sit down meal at its State Street headquarters on Thanksgiving Day in 2020, but the annual tradition is back this year. The Salvation Army also partnered with Exterior + Home Remodeling and Fareway on the “Turkeys for Tummys” event held on Wednesday night.

“I’m so ready to get back to normal. We still have to live our lives and still do stuff amidst COVID,” Kasten said.

With reports that energy costs could skyrocket this winter due to supply chain issues and inflation, Kasten is preparing to see more customers for assistance with their bills. She urges anyone who might need help to continue making a good faith effort to pay something each month and recommends applying for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) through Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA).

As the focus shifts from Thanksgiving to Christmas, area shoppers can expect to see the famous Salvation Army bell ringers out in force if they haven’t already. The red kettle fundraising goal for this year is $79,600, and the overall Christmas goal is $217,700. Fundraising efforts in Marshalltown started on Nov. 12 and kicked into high gear on Monday with a competition between the police and fire departments. Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper joked that in recent years, the fire department has been coming out on top, but it’s all in good fun when it’s for a great cause.

“The Salvation Army’s a critically important community partner, and they’ve been a valuable community resource for many years. When I think about the tornado in 2018 and the derecho in 2020, the Salvation Army always steps up,” Tupper said. “During COVID, they were one that we could count on to show up in person, and they’re always there when we need them.”

Bell ringers will be at Wal-Mart, Hy-Vee, Fareway, Theisen’s and Hobby Lobby this winter. So far, the fundraising goals have been reached in each of Kasten’s first three years with the Marshalltown Salvation Army. The funds support a wide variety of programs both charitable and recreational, including sending kids to camp in the summer, and of course, ensuring staff members get paid.

“The community’s really good about coming alongside us, and then we utilize those funds throughout the year,” she said. “It’s used for everything we do.”

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Contact Robert Maharry at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or maharry@timesrepublican.com