BIDDEFORD — The Salvation Army says donations are lagging at its red kettles this year, and Gov. Paul LePage answered the call for reinforcements on Friday.
The governor rang the bell and collected donations at the Walmart in Biddeford on Friday afternoon. He greeted shoppers while a uniformed Salvation Army volunteer simultaneously played Christmas carols on the baritone, a valved brass instrument.
LePage said he heard the Salvation Army was having problems this year with fundraising.
“We’re trying to help them out, that’s what we’re here for,” the governor said, noting he’s volunteered for the Salvation Army since 1978.
Maj. Steve Ditmer said donations raised by the Portland Salvation Army’s kettle campaign totaled $77,500 as of Dec. 18.
Ditmer said this week that last year’s donations totaled $98,700 as of Dec. 19.
Ditmer said he believes donations are down this year partly because Thanksgiving was later in November than usual. Some top kettle stands in the Portland area aren’t allowed to start collecting until Black Friday, he noted.
He also said the weather played a role. “This is the worst December we’ve had in at least three years,” he said.
Pat James, spokeswoman for the Salvation Army’s Northern New England Division, said that to date, $420,600 has been collected through the kettle campaigns run by its 10 facilities. The statewide goal is $814,650 by Christmas, she said.
She said last year’s Portland total was $132,070.
The kettle campaign helps fund various programs, including Camp Sebago, a Salvation Army youth camp in Standish.
“It could affect how many people we serve,” James said.
LePage also helped kick off the Salvation Army campaign this year, making a ceremonial first donation at the State House in mid-November.