salvation army

The cold weather was not enough to stop this group of Culpeper Young Professionals from ringing bells outside of Walmart at one of the Salvation Army's Angel Tree stations. 

Dropping a bit of spare change in the red kettles that have become a staple of the holiday season goes a long way in aiding the Salvation Army’s mission. Capt. Duane Burleigh, the Piedmont Core Salvation Army’s commanding officer, explained donations this year are more important than ever.

Burleigh said there has been a significant decline locally in the Salvation Army’s volunteers who ring bells and spread holiday cheer while manning the Angel Tree donation stations. Many of the usual volunteers, he explained, are older and understandably avoiding being around too many people.

Out of the 16 locations kettles can set up in the area, Burleigh explained there have been times that there were only enough volunteers available to man just five of the stations. Last year the Salvation Army raised $90,000 and the efforts are running about $20,000 behind. Being the Salvation Army’s only fundraiser, he said Angel Tree donations fund the purchase of gifts and food for needy residents, summer camps and more. This year, he noted that the Salvation Army has provided a lot of rent and utility assistance.

“Those kettles are extremely important not only at Christmas but 365 days a year,” he said. “It runs the program for the entire year. If we fall short here it will affect us long term and all of our programs.”

Burleigh explained the lagging donations simply stem from a volunteer shortage, noting that “it’s a very giving and caring community” but “we just don’t have enough people.” Burleigh recently came out of retirement from Virginia Beach to assume the commanding officer role on an interim basis through June and said he is happy to be here.

“I’m glad to be in this area. I’m here to serve this community to the best of our ability, to meet the needs. The Salvation Army has a phrase: Doing the most good for the most people in the most need. And that’s what I try to do,” he said.

The Salvation Army also runs food pantries on weekdays out of its Culpeper and Warrenton offices. In addition to food, the pantries provide items such as diapers and baby formula.

“Whatever their needs may be. We’ve handed out a lot of toilet paper this year,” Burleigh said. “Whatever their needs might be, we’re there to do what we can.”

Other services the Salvation Army normally offers throughout the year include character-building programs and nursing home or long-term care facility visitations to provide gifts and encouragement. Of course, many of these programs have been stalled this year.

“COVID has shut us down but it’s not going to be that way for long. We’re going to be back up and operating full-speed,” Burleigh said.

If you do not see kettles around and want to donate, checks can be dropped off at 133 E. Culpeper St. in Culpeper or 62 Waterloo St. in Warrenton. Donations stay local, with 93 cents of every dollar helping the community. Checks should be made out to the Salvation Army and donors have the option of specifying exactly what program the money should go to in the memo line.

Anyone interested in volunteering to ring bells at Angel Trees, which will remain active through Christmas Eve, in Culpeper or Warrenton can contact Burleigh at 757-403-6663.

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