NEWBURYPORT — With a late Thanksgiving comes a quick Christmas, and everyone is feeling the pinch, not the least of whom are the ones most in need.
"Since Thanksgiving was late, we started late," said Newburyport chapter Salvation Army Lt. Jeff Brunelle. "Because of that, right off the bat, we started the season $9,000 short. Every week, we have (also) been raising less than we did at this time last year at the kettles. So when you extrapolate that out, it looks to be about $23,000 that we expect to be short by Christmas."
The Salvation Army is not able to start its kettle drives until the week of Thanksgiving. Brunelle’s Newburyport chapter normally brings in $88,000 each holiday season to help fund its numerous programs for the rest of the year. Currently, it is pulling in a little more than $3,000 less each week, plus the $9,000 shortfall from the missed week in November.
"Last year, in the last week before Christmas, we got about $20,000 at the kettles, which is great," Brunelle said. "This year, if we even got that, we will still be $9,000 behind."
But it’s Christmastime, and all is not lost. Enter local businessman Ralph Castagna, president of Castagna Construction, who, when he heard of Brunelle’s fundraising troubles, reached out to his neighbors at the Newburyport Business and Industry Park to see if they could help make up the shortfall.
"Everyone sees them out there with the kettle drive," Castagna said of The Salvation Army. "And you can't help but be taken in with it. You see them ringing the bells everywhere, and when you will learn what to do, you want to be part of it.”
Sending out a weekly email blast since the beginning of the month, Castagna has been able to pull together a Christmas coalition of local businesses, including Chase and Lunt Insurance, Packaging Specialties, Label Print America, ITW Foils, Hero Coatings, Ultra Clad Corp., Bradford & Bigelow, Enpro Services and Alfa Laval. Other businesses have joined daily and put together an additional $15,000 for the Salvation Army’s cause so far.