Last updated: February 20. 2013 12:04AM - 350 Views

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Maybe the bells were a bit louder this year.

The Salvation Army based in West Pittston reported surpassing their $50,000 goal for their annual Christmas Kettle Campaign for the first time ever.

The religious-based charity raked in $58,200 this season, reported Major Cheryl Hershey

It's absolutely amazing how the area opened up their hearts and their wallets for us this year, she said. We want to offer a nice big ‘thank you' to everyone out there.

Over Christmas, they handed out 420 food baskets and more than 1,400 toys to families in the community that found themselves in need at Christmastime.

The largest donation they pulled out of a kettle was a $100 bill, so no single donation put them over the top.

The past two years were only several thousand dollars short.

In 2011, the charity raised $47,500 and in 2010 they raised $46,800.

About 50-60 volunteers manned the kettles on the weekends throughout the season, and during the week, if they didn't have any volunteers, they hired ringers at minimum wage. Eight temporary workers were hired.

Reba Emil, a Salvation Army volunteer, said she put her time in as a bell ringer, but now works more behind the scenes, as she wrapped gifts Friday for a kids' New Year's program.

Seeing the smiles on their faces is thanks enough, Emil said. It's so gratifying.

The kettles were manned from Nov. 14 to Dec. 24, except Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Hershey said a lot of service clubs and school and church groups manned the kettles.

Kettles were outside of the Pittston Walmart, Kmart, Quinn's Market in Pittston, Ray's Market in Old Forge, Redners Market, Price Chopper, Walgreens and CVS.

A lot of people helped us out because of what we did during the flood, Hershey said.

The West Pittston branch itself was hit hard by flooding in 2011.

Eight feet of water that made its way into the building and destroyed nearly everything in the basement, including thousands of dollars of food and toys. Program space was lost, forcing Hershey to hold services outdoors under tents, and eventually in a temporary building provided by Michael Insalaco, Salvation Army Advisory Board chair. The branch reopened in 2012. A new electrical system was installed and the kitchen was remodeled. There is a new food pantry, complete with extra closet space and shelving units. New carpets were installed in the chapel and the size of the stage was reduced in order to enhance the overall appearance of the room, leaving space for the possibility of additional seating in the future.

It's so encouraging that people are donating in such hard economic times, Hershey said.

Some of the programs the Salvation Army administers are the food bank, clothing bank, programming for children including day camps, overnight camps, weekly music programs, kids club, and adult programming for both women and men.

For a little Salvation Army we do a lot, Hershey said. The ministry has 45 members.

Although the kettle campaign has ended, The Salvation Army will still accept donations. They can be mailed to 214 Luzerne Ave., West Pittston, PA, 18643. Or, to help, call 655-5947.

We're first of all a church, Hershey said. We're all about sharing God's love. Our mission is to help anyone who is in need.

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