GLOVERSVILLE - Nearly every day for the past few weeks, city resident Mike Morehouse has tied the strings on his red apron and set up a red kettle at the Price Chopper supermarket on North Main Street.
From morning until about 3 p.m., he rings the Salvation Army bell, and shoppers slip dollars and coins into the kettle and move onto their errands.
This is Morehouse's first year as a bell-ringer, but he says it will be a tradition he plans to keep.
Volunteer Mike Morehouse rings a bell Thursday as he collects donations for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign at the Gloversville Price Chopper. This is his first season as a bell-ringer.
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"I just like to do things for people in need, like kids that need toys and people who can't buy presents," Morehouse said.
It seems difficult to stand in the cold for hours standing watch over the kettle, but Morehouse said it's well worth it for the good it brings and the conversations he's had with people who stop to talk.
Today is the last day for the Gloversville Salvation Army to meet its goal of $25,000 for the annual red kettle campaign.
Corps Commanding Officer Capt. Debra Stedman said a little more than $18,000 had been raised as of Thursday.
"We were behind last year at this time, and we're almost at what we did last year, but normally we make our goal - or maybe $1,000 above - but I'm not totally surprised, with how everything is locally," Stedman said.
Across the state, red kettle drives are behind so far, through they will have the rest of the day today to reach all of the varying local goals, said Mary Jo Barnello, a spokeswoman for the Empire State Division of the Salvation Army, which covers 48 counties in the state.
"The demand is higher than it's ever been, and there are people coming to the Salvation Army who in the past have been our donors and volunteers," said Barnello, whose offices are based in Syracuse.
She said there are heartwarming stories this year of donors who have given checks as large as $10,000 to help local Salvation Armies to meet their goals, especially in areas affected by natural disasters this year.
"From the divisional standpoint, half of our state was impacted by Tropical Storm Irene and then Lee," Barnello said. "It was a tremendous effort by the Salvation Army [to help] with immediate services and anything we could do, from hygiene kits to clean-up kits."
Barnello noted people who want to support local red kettle drives can donate to their local communities through www.onlineredkettle.org, a convenience for people who don't carry cash. Both Gloversville and Amsterdam have virtual red kettles set up, but neither were showing any online donations by Friday.
The national goal is $3 million, and by Friday, according to the site, www.onlineredkettle.org, donations were at $1.2 million. Online donations are accepted through Jan. 31 as part of the campaign.
In Gloversville, Stedman said, about five core red kettle volunteers work each season, and the kettle drive will continue today until the afternoon, when the bell-ringers will go home to enjoy Christmas Eve with their families.
"They're here Monday through Friday, filling in the gaps when someone from the community isn't standing there," Stedman said.
Many other businesses and community organizations partner with the Salvation Army to provide volunteers who may ring the bells for a day or two, she said.
"And it all stays local," Stedman said of donations. "It's for local use for the Christmas effort and help us through the year with other programs."
Stedman said donations for toys and other presents for children went very well this year. She said about 240 local families will receive Christmas presents this year thanks to the generosity of the local community.
"It's a good feeling when you can help people a little bit more, especially at this time of the year," Stedman said.
She said several more walk-ins came in, and the Salvation Army was able to provide presents and food for them as well.
The Salvation Army also assembles Christmas baskets. Families can then apply for the baskets, which include food and toys, depending on the ages of children with the families.
She said many people mail in donations, though there is no goal for what's called the "mail appeal."
Year-round, the Salvation Army offers a soup kitchen and food pantry, programs supported largely by the Christmas-season fundraising.
"The money raised during the holiday season is so critical to programs and services we provide," Barnello said. "This is really it. It's the push for dollars used the rest of the year to support everything happening in those communities."
Last Christmas season, the Gloversville Salvation Army raised $44,650, including the mail appeal and red kettle drive. The Salvation Army's local chapter has roots that go back 125 years.
Amanda Whistle covers Gloversville news. She can be reached at email@example.com.