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In the red

Weather hurts Salvation Army's holiday efforts

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Rose Mertz, development director for The Salvation Army's local office, likens her red kettle campaign volunteers to U.S. postal workers.

"Nothing," she says, "can keep us from putting our kettles out."

But the first of two December blizzards did just that. The two-day hiatus from supermarket collections, combined with limited volunteer power on a blustery Christmas Eve, left the charity $27,000 shy of its $500,000 holiday goal.

So as 2006 turned to 2007, The Salvation Army was hoping donations to an "emergency red kettle fund" could help the organization avoid cutting programs or staff.

"It takes money to make the homeless shelter effective and to make sure it has the right programs and services," says Mertz. "Some of it is case management, and that is where you lay off people."

As if financial worries weren't enough, the organization also weathered a minor flood at one of its six community dinners on Christmas Day. An early afternoon meal at the 908 Yuma St. facility was cut short when a pipe broke in the kitchen; 80 volunteers mopped water as it spread over the floor.

"We had water coming everywhere in the middle of our dinner," says Mertz. "I told the volunteers, "Now we are training you what it is like to serve in a tsunami.' "

The organization still was able to feed around 2,300 people, including 600 who received meals through the new mobile canteen program. The Salvation Army buys food for the Christmas meal, and Fort Carson volunteers cook and serve the dinner.

Despite the holiday setbacks, Mertz remains hopeful.

"God knows what we need, and he knows where the money is," she says. "I have no doubt that the community is going to come to our aid."

To donate to the Salvation Army by check, make it payable to "Salvation Army Emergency Red Kettle Fund" and send it to 910 Yuma St., Colorado Springs, CO 80909. To donate by credit card, contact Rose Mertz at 884-1050.

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