Many of us know The Salvation Army as the “bell-ringers” of Christmas. They are standing outside of stores and businesses in all types of weather, ringing their bells, and asking for donations. Little do we know of the many projects and missions that the Salvation Army tackles throughout the year with the only income being from these red kettles and grants and gifts from individuals and organizations such as the Gibson County Community Foundation.
Lt. Jonathon Cooper and his wife, Lt. Chrissy Cooper lead the army of volunteers in Gibson County. Lt. Cooper says, “We only have 1 part time paid employee besides myself and my wife”. All donation money goes to their good works and all of it stays in Gibson and Pike Counties which are included in their territory. The Gibson County Community Foundation made a sizeable grant to their building fund 13 years ago which helped to build their current building on Gibson St. in Princeton and continues to grant them money each year for their “Tools for Schools” program.
“Tools for Schools” begins each year with Lt. Cooper contacting the schools in Gibson and Pike Counties and asking for lists of school supplies needed by each class from kindergarten to 12th grade. Next, backpacks are ordered wholesale to keep the cost low. Now the volunteers take the lists to a local store and purchase the supplies which are then separated into school, class, and age as needed by the army of volunteers. Lt. Cooper states, “We always buy locally so that the money we spend stays in our economy rather than go outside of the county.” The next step is to stuff the backpacks and prepare them for distribution. On average, 400 backpacks, each with about $25 of school supplies are prepared with an additional 100 to 150 prepared for Pike County schools. Lt. Cooper says, “If money is available, we have had as many as 600 backpacks to hand out, but we are limited by the amount of the donations during the year. There is no income requirement for a child to receive a backpack, only proof that the child belongs to the adult that accompanies him or her to the Salvation Army to pick it up.”
In addition to the “Tools for Schools” program, the Salvation Army gave out 30,000 lbs of food this past year along with formula, diapers, and other necessities. All of these items are donated or purchased with money granted, donated or collected during their red kettle drive which starts this year at midnight on Nov 23rd and runs through mid day on Christmas Eve. During this time, the goal is to collect $105,000 dollars which is about 1/3 of their operating costs. Their total yearly budget is $288,000. The majority of their budget is from donations and grants such as the “Tools for Schools” grant made available from the Gibson County Community Foundation. “Watching these children open up their backpack to a new box of crayons, glue, and pencils is worth all the work that goes into this project by the volunteers.” When asked if there is a noticeable difference between the people of Gibson County and the people in Chicago where he was stationed prior to Princeton, Lt. Cooper thoughtfully said, “The people in this area were more philanthropic and more people give in some amount.”
“We are doing for the Lord,” as the Salvation Army gets ready to ring those bells with a joyful heart and pass your donations on to those who most need them.
Anyone wanting about the Salvation Army and their services can call at 812-286-6577 or check their web site at www.saprinceton.org.