Close may not count for much in sports but it counts for a lot when someone is raising money to help the needy.

Close may not count for much in sports but it counts for a lot when someone is raising money to help the needy.
Capt. Chuck Cook, with the Carthage Salvation Army, said he counts the 2017 Salvation Army Christmas Campaign as successful after it raised more than 95 percent of its goal.
“We're thrilled, we can't tell you how happy we are with the Christmas Campaign and the past year,” Cook said. “When I get that close, I'm walking on a cloud because I've been in places where it's much bleaker. Last year it was much bleaker here, we only hit 81 percent of our goal. Things have to go when you lose that kind of money. This year, I can truthfully say I have no plans to stop anything we do.”

Bell Ringers
Cook said the very public Red Kettle campaign, with the iconic bell ringers at the entrances to Walmart and other area businesses, is just part of the overall Christmas Campaign, providing about 30 percent of the funds raised for the season.
In 2017, the bell ringers raised $27,835.95, about $1,400 more than in 2016, but still short of the goal of $30,000.
Cook said one big improvement over last year was that volunteers stepped up, reducing the need to hire paid bell ringers compared to last year.
Cook said the Salvation Army sets a goal of having bell ringers at their stations for 2,500 hours during the season. Cook said he only had to hire paid bell ringers for 83 of those hours, or 3.2 percent.
“I had to hire a couple of guys the last week because of the distribution of Christmas food baskets and toys,” Cook said. “A lot of places have had to hire more people than that, we've had to hire more people here in the past. Last year we spent about $4,000 to pay bell ringers. This year our out-of-pocket for paid bell ringers was $922. We did a great job trimming that back. I had to stand a few kettle shifts, but it comes with the territory.”

Four parts
Cook said the Army's total Christmas Campaign consists of four parts, the Bell Ringers, a few major donors who give at Christmas time every year, a mail solicitation sent to selected area residents and unsolicited donations usually received by mail.
In total the Carthage Salvation Army Christmas Campaign raised $83,233.85, just short of the overall goal of $88,000.
He said the Christmas Campaign drives what the Salvation Army can do in the community throughout the year, providing almost half of the charity's annual budget of just over $200,000 a year.
“We throw everything at Christmas because it's the best time for us to talk to the public,” Cook said. “Our needs go through the whole year, but I beat the drum really hard at Christmas, so when I say those things, when I say we're 95 percent there, it not only says Christmas was successful, it secures the year.”

Needs continue
Cook said even though he and others with the Salvation Army don't talk as much throughout the rest of the year when compared to Christmas, the needs to continue.
But the local support is strong.
“Last year was tough, but we came through this last year with zero debt,” Cook said. “We don't owe our divisional headquarters any money, we paid all of our bills, we ended the year with some money. Don't get me wrong, we didn't end the year with a giant pot of money at the end, but the Lord met our needs.”
Cook said the church receives a number of perpetual donations, given from the estates of people when they die.
Cook said the annuities produced by those gifts are doing better financially than in the past, producing $23,000 in revenue last year compared to $13,000 the year before.
“Things are looking better for this area,” Cook said. “That does not mean we will not continue to work as hard as we can to be the most efficient and the most economical that we can because we realize that, even if we are on target or above, you have to be aware that rarely does the Lord give you more than you need.”
Cook said he's been impressed with the willingness of Carthage and area residents to give to meet those needs.
“Thank God for the people of Jasper County and their continued ability to want to help others,” Cook said. “That's not just us, that's everyone. We're helpers, that's what we do.”