The Lake County Salvation Army fell significantly short of its holiday fundraising campaign goal and now needs to make some cuts to save money.
The three Salvation Army locations in Lake County — East Chicago, Gary and Hammond-Munster — each will have to cut $50,000 in employee and program expenses.
How those cuts will happen has yet to be determined.
A possibility for East Chicago includes reducing hours for the soup kitchen, perhaps in a combination of days each week and hours each day, said Capt. Rebecca Simmons, Salvation Army Lake County coordinator.
An after-school program based in Gary also may be restructured to pick up students at only three schools, instead of the seven it has in the past. Also, the format could change from an education focus to more of a recreation- and arts-based program.
Two positions left open after employees retired from the Hammond-Munster office will not be filled, leaving it short-staffed, Simmons said.
How each location will meet its tighter budget has not yet been finalized. Further reductions in staff, or hours from each employee, also may be considered, she said.
Donation totals for 2013 were down by 25 percent, with the organization raising $709,000 of the $940,000 needed, while the needs of the community continue to grow.
Contributions to the Red Kettle holiday drive fell $203,000 short of a $645,000 goal. That's down 42 percent from the previous year.
"We're trying very hard not to cut any of our existing programs, but our reality is we did not make our Christmas donation goals," Simmons said.
The Salvation Army provided assistance to more than 7,000 people in the county, many receiving assistance multiple times, Simmons said.
The decrease in donations to kettles could be a result of more people choosing to carry less cash with them, Simmons said. Other Salvation Army corps across the country have tested using card readers, but have had little success.
"People don't really want to stand out in the cold to donate," she said.
Instead, the organization is trying to find other venues to receive donations from those who prefer to handle funds electronically.
She hopes Wednesday's NWI Gives, a new online giving platform for Northwest Indiana nonprofits, will help the local Salvation Army make up some of the lost donations from the Christmas season. The website, nwigives.razoo.com, opens Wednesday.
The Salvation Army also continues to accept donations by mail or phone. Visit www.salarmy.org/lakecounty for more information.