The Salvation Army Red Kettle, a traditional symbol of holiday season giving for the needy, is drawing significantly less from holiday shoppers this season than last.
Lexington area giving is down more than $20,000 from this time last year, according to Maj. Debra Ashcraft, area coordinator of the Salvation Army. The organization tries to raise $400,000 in Fayette, Scott and Jessamine counties from the kettles for its ministries, which include a shelter, child care services and counseling.
Last year by this time, $218,150 had been deposited in the kettles manned by bell-ringing volunteers; this year, it's $197,651.
The money is "critical to keeping everything going," Ashcraft said.
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Time is running out for children whose names are on The Salvation Army's Angel Tree, which still holds more than 1,300 cards with wish lists from needy kids. Gifts are due by Sunday. About 5,000 cards, which include a child's name, gender, clothing items and things they hope to receive for Christmas, already have been taken.
There also has been a decrease in donations of non-perishable food for The Salvation Army's Mountain of Love. Although the collection time for the Mountain of Love technically is over, donations may be dropped off at the old Winn-Dixie store at 1060 South Broadway.
The Mountain of Love is running short on potatoes, stuffing and canned green vegetables for its gift baskets, which also include a gift card for perishable items such as milk, eggs and butter.
The Catholic Action Center, which partners with Vineyard Community Church for its annual free Christmas store, anticipates an increase of at least 20 percent in the number of families served; last year, about 4,000 needy families got free toys, books, games and clothing from the organization.
This year, Ginny Ramsey, head of the Catholic Action Center, said the need is greater, with more families feeling a financial pinch during the holidays.
Personal escorts help shoppers with their purchases, which can be gift-wrapped, Ramsey said.
"We never have enough stuff," she said. "People are saying, 'I've never had to have help before, but can I come to your store?' "
The Nest, a non-profit that helps families and children year-round, is seeking donations for its annual Reindeer Express. which will help provide gifts of toys and clothing for 835 children.
Still needed are new toys and clothing for children up to 8 years old, including games and puzzles, dolls, art supplies, sports items and new winter outerwear.
Nicholas Newman, head of the Fraternal Order of Firefighters in Lexington, said his group could use additional donations for its toy drive, which served 2,300 children last year. Particularly needed are toys for infants and children nearing age 10, who like more complicated toys.
He said donations are needed by Thursday. Children don't get just one toy, he said: "We load them down. We give them Christmas."
The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation is "not hurting, but I haven't reached the goal yet," said Staff Sgt. Justin Wiley. "Marines never fail, so I'm going to hit my goal one way or another."
The Toys for Tots group is at 85 percent of its goal and will stop taking donations Dec. 20. Wiley said it distributed 5,500 toys last week.