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Benjamin Deuel

FLORENCE — While The Empty Table Fund has fallen shy of its goal in its 45th year of collections, the Red Kettle Campaign came from behind just two weeks before Christmas to exceed its goal.

"We are so appreciative of what both of these fundraising efforts were able to produce," said Salvation Army Captain Benjamin Deuel. "We say it every year, but the generosity of this community is astounding."

The TimesDaily-sponsored Empty Table Fund collected $35,113 towards its goal of $39,000.

The money collected through both campaigns is used for food and services to help the needy in the Shoals area, according to Deuel.

The Red Kettle Campaign is the largest fundraiser for the Salvation Army each year. It slightly surpassed its goal of $150,000 this year, officials said Tuesday.

Just two weeks before Christmas, down $27,000, it didn't look as if the campaign would reach the goal.

That's when Deuel and other Salvation Army officials began heavily publicizing the needs with local media and on the Salvation Army social media site.

"We were concerned at that time, and we contacted the newspaper for help, posted often on our social media, and just basically beat down doors looking for help and this community really stepped up," Deuel said.

"I think this is just the Lord's way of humbling us to know he'll carry us and provide what this community needs.

"We're excited to be able to continue our support to the community at the standard we're accustomed to, and we're thankful for all the additional volunteers we had this year ringing bells," he said. "It made a difference."

Deuel said he doesn't anticipate a decrease in services this year, and actually hopes to increase them with the additional partnerships formed in 2019.

"Our most sincere appreciation goes out to this community for its giving," Deuel said. "These monies go right back into our community, so it's a beautiful thing to see people step up and literally help their neighbors. It's only by our volunteers and donors that the Salvation Army can help others."

As for the Empty Table Fund, TimesDaily Publisher Darrell Sandlin said missing the goal certainly doesn't diminish the importance of the fund, or the gratitude he has for those who contributed.

"Every penny is important for this cause and we just appreciate the generosity of the community in providing this helping hand," Sandlin said. 

The following Empty Table Fund contributions were collected last week: Tri-Cities Jewish Federated Charities, $100; Margaret M. Johnson, $25; Tennessee Valley Business Office, $150.

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