December 5, 2021

A time of giving

Organizations solicit donations after slow start

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

J.M. Murray community integration specialist Lily Fisk of McGraw organizes Toys for Tots donations Thursday at Walgreen’s in Cortlandville. Toys for Tots is among several groups seeking contributions of money or toys to help families during the holiday season.

The clink of the coins in the red kettles and the gifts for Toys for Tots haven’t been as frequent this year, leaving charitable organizations wondering how to bring cheer to the holidays.

Salvation Army Lt. Rebecca March said getting volunteers for the organization’s Red Kettle Campaign has been difficult and donations seem down, too. Monetary donations to Toys for Tots are down, too, its organizer said.

“We’re struggling this year to get people to ring the bell during the week,” March said.

The Salvation Army reduced its fundraising goal after not meeting its goal last year. Last year the goal was $53,000, but the organization raised only $46,500; $46,500 is this year’s goal, but donations are still low this year, March said.

“When we don’t reach our goal that puts a strain on our budget,” March said. The organization’s budget for the county is $200,000. Last year, the organization had to ask its Syracuse headquarters for an internal grant.

“The kettle isn’t the end all be all,” said Jon Roger, spokesman for the Salvation Army Empire State Division. “The kettle just happens to be the most visible piece of the Christmas puzzle.”

It’s been a slow start across the state for the kettle campaign, Rogers said this morning in a news release. He noted that 60 minutes of ringing the bell raises enough funds to feed 13 people.

Internal grants comes from sources like a reserve fund, he said. Other options for covering costs include charging a sliding fee for some programs, which Roger said is rare, or finding a donor to sponsor a program The Salvation Army has kettles at five locations: Price Chopper, Tops Supermarket, P&C Fresh and two at Walmart.

Toys for Tots organizer Norm Stitzel started collecting items Nov. 1 and has already held three distribution nights.

This year he’s faced two problems: Monetary donations have been slow and finding items for teens has been difficult.

“Many times we don’t get them until December,” he said about the monetary donations. “That last week is a bit of nailbiter not knowing what we’ll get from the county and not having all the funds in.”

Pickup from the 70 collection boxes across Cortland County won’t happen until Dec. 10.

Money is helpful to Stitzel because he can buy toys wholesale, getting more toys for the dollar. However, this year, the organization had to find other retailers to buy from after Toys R Us closed over the summer. Stitzel said he purchased items from Ollie, 5 Below and wholesaler Houseware Distributors. However, Stitzel said many of the items are geared toward younger kids. For teenagers he’s had to look for things like electronics and bath sets.

Stitzel said he’ll help around 1,300 kids in the county. Each gets a big toy, little toy, book and stocking stuffer.

There are two distribution nights left: 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 5 and 12. People looking to participate must schedule an appointment ahead of time at

Bailey’s Place Insurance, Access to Independence and The Used Car King are among the many places with collection boxes.

November and December is the busiest time for donations for the Food Bank of Central New York said chief development officer Lynn Hy. The organization’s goal is $2.3 million.

“We’re right on track compared to last year,” Hy said. “If we continue on that track we’ll be good.”

The food bank covers 11 counties, including Cortland and Tompkins. The money goes toward educational programs, supplying food banks and the mobile food bank.

The organization is working with Tops supermarkets again for its annual Food for Families Campaign. The Cortlandville Tops will sell tags for $5, $10 or $20, the amount Tops will donate in food to the campaign.