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story.lead_photo.caption Cousins Darlene Behlmann, left, and Ginger Beasley ring bells for the Callaway County Salvation Army on Nov. 27, 2020. Photo by Helen Wilbers / Fulton Sun.

Even in a turbulent year, something about Salvation Army's message must have rung true with Callawegians.

The Callaway County Salvation Army met and surpassed its $20,000 fundraising goal for the 2020 holiday season, said Glenda Fitch, Callaway County Salvation Army head.

"We sent a certified check to the Midland Division for $21,766.72," Fitch said Wednesday.

That figure smashes 2019's total of $16,939.87.

She said she was blown away by the generosity of the community, and she suspects every dollar of that money will be needed.

"It makes me feel wonderful — people do understand that people need help," she said. "It's going to be a bad year, I just know it is. We can't have this many people whose hours are being cut or are losing their jobs for this not be a bad year."

Fitch said she was also surprised so many people were willing to volunteer, despite the ongoing pandemic.

"I'm just glad the season is over," she added. "It went really really well this year, which is what really surprised me. I thought this was going to be a disaster."

Volunteers picked up their bells and headed to Moser's and Walmart each Friday and Saturday between Nov. 21- Dec. 19.

"The Fulton Community Supervision Center took like 28 hours of bell-ringing," Fitch said. "Kiwanis rang for an entire weekend. The student council at Fulton High School took an entire day at Walmart, and the North Callaway football team would have taken an entire day if I'd had another Saturday — I just ran out of Saturdays."

Fitch also spent time calling up people who'd previously volunteered; some were comfortable venturing out in public and some weren't, which Fitch said she understands. Both she and her husband had and survived COVID-19, though her husband needed to be hospitalized.

"There were a lot of people that were willing to get out there and ring," she said. "We managed to fill almost every opening we had. God put us on Earth to take care of each other and more people than you realize get it."

Bell-ringing was just one of Salvation Army's fundraising methods. Residents sponsored 95 trees in Fulton's Field of Joy, raising around $2,200. "Countertop kettles" placed at the Callaway Energy Center and businesses in Fulton, Auxvasse, Williamsburg, Millersburg and Kingdom City also collected money. Local businesses and churches responded to written pleas from the Salvation Army with direct donations.

"I think that probably the reason we made goal and some others were struggling is called good old-fashioned phone calls to talk to people," Fitch said.

Moser's placed a UPC code at the register that a cashier could scan to donate $1 or $5 toward the charity, a new initiative that raised an additional $304.

"Moser's has been really good to us this year," Fitch said.

Money collected in Callaway County will come back to the county to be used to meet the needs of residents — traditionally, it's gone toward utility and prescription medication assistance.

People in need of emergency utility or prescription medication assistance may apply through SERVE in Fulton. SERVE gives out up to $150 at a time in voucher form, so it can only be spent for its intended purpose. The medication help can be spent on most prescribed medications, excluding narcotics. Call SERVE at 573-642-6388 to learn more.

But depending on the amount of federal CARES Act funding available locally for utility assistance, Callaway County Salvation Army might find additional ways to distribute the money. In 2020, CCSA struggled to spend all the raised funds by the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30; any money left over past that date goes to Salvation Army's Midlands Division.

"That money is going to stay in Callaway County like it did last year, even if we have to look at rental assistance and other ways to distribute the money," Fitch said. "If we spend more of it on food bank or something like that, if that's what we have to do to make sure it's spent in Callaway County, that's what we'll do."

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