Tree of Lights goal announced

DeWayne Bartels
Flo Banwart, left, and husband, Sid, honorary co-chairs of this year's Salvation Army Tree of Lights Campaign, talk to Divisional Commander Major Charles Smith, prior to last week's announcement of the goal for this year's Tree of Lights Campaign.

The Salvation Army, last week, received a good start to its annual Tree of Lights Campaign with a campaign kickoff total of $174,960.

“That’s the highest total heading into the campaign we’ve ever announced,” said Craig Young, chairman of the Salvation Army Advisory Board.

But, that is a drop in the kettle, so to speak, since this year’s goal is $1.35 million.

Honorary chairs Sid and Flo Banwart were on hand to reveal the goal.

“We pledge to help to our greatest extent,” Flo said. “We hope, and believe, it will be a very successful year.”

Divisional Commander Major Charles Smith said the organization will need all the help it can get this year. By Nov. 2, Smith said, the Salvation Army saw a 50 percent increase in applications for Christmas assistance.

“We believe that number will just grow. In the first six days of sign-ups, we have already had 829 families sign up for food baskets, gifts for children and seniors and our various holiday parties. That represents more than 3,300 individuals,” Smith said.

“We continue to face and meet challenges through our programs and services. And, as a prayerful group, we ask for your prayers for the people who will reach out to us this season.”

Salvation Army spokesman Rich Draeger told those assembled at Northwoods Mall for the campaign kickoff that change tossed into the familiar red kettles is a significant player in the campaign. More than $250,000 of the $1.3 million raised last year came from the kettles, he said.

“It does make a difference when you throw a handful of change in there,” Draeger said. 

The kettles will be out until Dec. 24.

Donations can be made to the Tree of Lights Campaign by mail at: The Salvation Army, PO Box 1468, Peoria, IL. 61655, or by calling 655-7220 to charge on American Express, MasterCard, Visa or Discover.