That figure is nearly $6,500 more than the goal set by campaign organizers at the local Salvation Army and over $18,000 more than was raised last year.
Lona Courington, director of the Salvation Army of Walker County, said what was expected to be a tough campaign in an uncertain economy turned into a banner one thanks to overwhelming community support.
“It was everybody giving it everything they had and being excited about doing it,” Courington said.
Behind the scenes, the Salvation Army had the benefit of two experienced Kettle volunteer coordinators, Belinda Ruble and Terry McKay.
The two women kept track of more than 500 volunteers assigned to six kettles in Jasper during day and nighttime hours.
In east Walker, Mike and Susie Roberts once again spearheaded the Sumiton Kettle campaign.
Another husband and wife, Paul and Nell Emerson, coordinated an effort in Marion County that raised more than $15,600.
Courington said that Paul Emerson, an active Civitan from Hackleburg, recruited others in Haleyville, Hamilton and Winfield to help with the effort.
The Salvation Army of Walker County is available to serve residents of Marion and Winston counties as well, neither of which have a service center.
The Salvation Army closed its facility in Guin in 2010.
“It was really unusual that they would work so hard to raise money for a Salvation Army unit that was in another county, but what we have done in disaster up there has been huge. They recognized that and really wanted to give back,” Courington said.
Kettle organizers also made the crucial decision to kick off the campaign three days before Thanksgiving — a first for Walker County.
“That was very profitable,” Courington said.
Early planning led to more consistent placement of Kettles and more opportunities for businesses to participate.
Interest and excitement among volunteers was up this year as well. Courington credited Facebook, local media outlets and word of mouth for helping get the word out.
Walker County residents also showed a willingness to give of both their time and money.
Courington said some volunteers were upset that they only had one opportunity to ring the bell for the Salvation Army.
Donors who traditionally write checks to the campaign increased their contribution this year, and shoppers didn’t hesitate to dig deep and give multiple times at the Kettles.
McKay had an interesting experience while trying to collect the money Christmas Eve.
“She said it was very hard to take the Kettle down with three people chasing her trying to put money in it,” Courington said.
The funds raised through the Red Kettle Campaign help support the Salvation Army’s food bank, which feeds between 75 and 85 families per week, as well as the nonprofit’s other social services.
“We never stop giving even when we’re poor, but this allows us to do a lot more and breathe easier,” Courington said.