A joyful noise benefits a good cause

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Jen Kapinus, the local Salvation Army coordinator, is happy to be able to assist Crawford County families and transients throughout the year, but she always looks forward to spreading Christmas magic to families in need each year as well. The public can help the organization by putting spare change in the iconic red kettles or by sponsoring a family’s presents this Christmas. (Photo by Correne Martin)

By Correne Martin

The local Salvation Army raised a record amount of funds in 2014 thanks to community participation in its holiday Red Kettle campaign. The $18,234 in donations received right here in Crawford County benefitted 98 individuals and families in homeless and emergency situations, with needs such as rental assistance and emergency lodging, groceries, meals, clothes, school supplies, gas to get to work and appointments, medical supplies and prescriptions, domestic abuse refuge, utility bills and some vehicle repairs. The yearly campaign is the Salvation Army’s only means of fundraising.

“We had such a great year. We definitely want to exceed that this year,” said Jen Kapinus, local Salvation Army coordinator. She expounded that the organization also gave donations of $1,000 to the Couleecap Food Pantry and $300 to Catholic Charities’ Hands of Hope program as well as 1,200 Bibles to Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution inmates. A significant portion was saved for the 2015 Christmas program through which the Salvation Army provides toys and necessities to area needy families.

“We work closely with area school districts. They have information about our services and they often send it home with families who might need assistance,” Kapinus said, noting that the Salvation Army also collaborates with human services and local law enforcement in providing services. “There are no applications but we do verify people’s information. That’s what makes us unique. There really is no other place you can go and receive immediate assistance. ”

Getting the fundraising campaign underway, two iconic red kettles, accompanied by bell ringers, will be set up beginning Nov. 20 at Zinkle’s Piggly Wiggly and Nov. 27 at Walmart, both in Prairie du Chien. They will be up every day until Christmas Eve. Also, Prairie du Chien city and police department employees will ring bells daily at the red kettle at Cabela’s. About 10 other countertop kettles will be available at various businesses throughout the community.

“The donations stay in our county for people who live here or for transients,” Kapinus shared. Checks are accepted and can be placed directly in the kettles or mailed to 625 S. Dousman St., Prairie du Chien, WI 53821.

Bell ringers are needed between the hours of 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. at both Piggly Wiggly and Walmart. Two-hour shifts are available to individuals and groups who want to volunteer for one or multiple shifts. Bell ringing qualifies as community service hours for youth groups who need them, Kapinus added. To sign up, contact her at 326-8321 (mornings), at pdcumc@gmail.com or via Facebook at Salvation Army of Crawford County WI.

As the Red Kettle campaign approaches, so does the Salvation Army’s Christmas program, which spreads seasonal magic to families in need by providing “presents” of toys, coats, hats, gloves, boots and other necessities for their kids. Adults sometimes receive gifts too, if requested.

“We want people to be able to bring Christmas to their kids, and we can help those in need give that to their families. Every kid receives clothes and toys, usually from their wish list, wrapped. And they can’t request electronics (like cell phones, tablets, etc.),” Kapinus said. Gifts are distributed to the families a few weeks prior to Christmas.

Families who receive Salvation Army assistance for Christmas must be from Crawford County and apply prior to Wednesday, Nov. 25, by contacting Jen at the number/email listed above. Personal information is kept confidential and there is no judgement. Families can only receive help from one agency of the three offering holiday assistance locally, as Catholic Charities and Operation Santa work with the Salvation Army to eliminate duplicate applicants.

Sponsors for the Christmas program families are also desired at this time. Sponsors don’t need to be from Crawford County. Kapinus is willing to match sponsors with the size of family that best fits their budget. Large families can be split up between sponsors if necessary. Kapinus said donations of new or gently used boots and wrapping paper would also be appreciated.

“Without our sponsors, donors, bell ringers and the people who put money in our kettles, we wouldn’t be here to help. We’re very thankful for that,” Kapinus articulated.

In 2014, the local Salvation Army made Christmas a little merrier for 75 families, including 180 kids and 64 adults, and all but 14 of them were sponsored.

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