BLOOMINGTON — Taking the conventional wisdom and turning it on its head — and tail — McLean County residents donated a record-high amount of coinage to the recently completed Salvation Army of McLean County annual fundraising campaign.

Salvation Army announced at Thursday evening's Make A Difference Campaign Celebration that $529,689.21 was raised in the campaign that began Nov. 16 and ended earlier this month. That eclipses the previous record high of $515,375.85 raised two years ago and this year's campaign goal of $490,000.

"To see the generosity of the community is humbling," Capt. Paul James told The Pantagraph following the event.

"But we know it's not about us," James said. "It's about the people we serve."

One reason James was humbled is because some other agencies — such as United Way of McLean County — are struggling in their fundraising. "I encourage people to give to United Way," he said.

"Looking at the United Way campaign being down, that makes me nervous," he admitted. "But going over our campaign goal gives us a good start to the rest of the year."

Make A Difference Campaign fundraising accounts for about a third of Salvation Army's $1.6 million operating budget. About 85 percent of Salvation Army's income comes from local donations, including $123,856 this fiscal year from United Way.

James expects Salvation Army's United Way allocation to be down significantly for the next fiscal year.

The remaining 15 percent is state and federal money.

"We've been receiving our federal dollars on time and we've received at least half of our state dollars," James said. "I'm hopeful they'll come through with the full amount."

Local donations come at a good time. Salvation Army's Safe Harbor is sheltering a record-high number of residents, in part because shelters in Champaign and Springfield have closed, James said.

In addition to supporting Safe Harbor, campaign dollars help Salvation Army's food pantry, comprehensive emergency assistance and youth summer camp and after-school programs.

The Make A Difference Campaign included the Red Kettles that were up at 23 stores throughout Bloomington-Normal before Christmas and other Salvation Army fundraising, including the mail appeal.

State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, who was campaign co-chairman with Scott Laughlin of WJBC, announced that $253,696.24 was collected in the Red Kettles, exceeding the $240,000 goal, and $276,001.97 was raised in the mail appeal and from other gifts, exceeding the $250,000 goal.

"All of you in this room did something to make this possible," Brady told about 60 campaign volunteers who attended the celebration at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Bloomington.

Among people at the event was Trudy Strand of Bloomington, a longtime Safe Harbor volunteer, who was named the David Penn Memorial Volunteer of the Year.

"As long as our community knows there's a need," James said, "they'll be generous."

Follow Paul Swiech on Twitter: @pg_swiech

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Health Editor

Health Editor for The Pantagraph.

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