WASILLA — Salvation Army Mat-Su Valley Corps Officer Major Kevin Bottjen recently participated in a question and answer interview to discuss the end result of their annual toy and food distribution project and Red Kettle holiday fundraising campaign.

How did the holiday season go?“The toy and food distribution went well. We provided food for just under 100 households. That’s including a nice gift card. We were able to give out just under 2,000 gifts to children. That was really awesome…Our Kettles on the other hand, we took a pretty significant hit on that. We were about $30,000 down from our goal.”

What does that mean for your overall operation?“That hurt. That’s a significant part of our budget. We made less than half of what we needed. It’s because of us not being able to hire bell ringers. Our volunteers were amazing. But, unfortunately, we rely on both volunteers and employees, and we were able to cover two kettle locations out of 15 locations a day, six days a week. The locations we had did fantastic work. We just didn’t have enough locations out to make our goal this year… What that means is we there will be some folks we won’t be able to assist in the way we like to.”

How are you going to adapt for the rest of the year?“Well, when the funding’s gone, the funding’s gone- is really what it comes down to. We do what we can do, and we’re hoping that folks do the mail-in donations or maybe call over the phone or something to help offset the difference because it’s a pretty significant difference. It definitely affects us. It affects the food we can buy. It affects the assistance we can give… It all adds up, but we’re not going to tuck in our tails, roll over and give up. We will find a way to make it happen, but it just makes it more difficult.”

What do you think about the dedication of those who volunteered as bell ringers this year?“We are so amazingly grateful for all the volunteers that came out. This community, when it came to toys, did above and beyond what we anticipated. We had no shortage of toys for the children that signed up. Every child that signed up got a bunch of toys… We made sure they did not have an empty Christmas tree. That’s only doable because we had nearly 50 Angel Tree locations in town. These companies that work with us and the people that go out and buy the toys are just amazing. It’s a fantastic community. The Kettles were down not due to generosity problems. It’s just because we just couldn’t get the workers out there. I have a feeling that if all our locations were filled every day, we’d probably be looking at a record income year because the Mat-Su Valley people are amazingly generous. They’ve proven that time and time again.”

What can members of the community do to help the Salvation Army through this difficult time?“To use a phrase we’ve used for many years at the Salvation Army. The Christmas push is over but the assistance we give continues on throughout the year… The economy is rough right now so that means the need is growing. If folks can help us financially, that’s always an amazing way to give. Also, we need volunteers.”

Are you hopeful for the future in spite of all the looming challenges?“Yeah, I am. I’m an optimist by default anyway. We may not know what the future holds but we know who holds the future. We know there’s a lot of good work to do; and through the support of this community, we know we can be involved and doing that good work.”

For more information, call 907-745-7079 or visit mat-suvalley.salvationarmy.org.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman Reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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