Hays shoppers were generous filling Salvation Army kettles during the holiday season.

That meant the Ellis County Salvation Army met its fundraising goal of $40,000.

“We made about $41,500, so we beat our goal,” said Ashley Allen, Ellis County coordinator. “We want to tell everyone thank you.”

With the exception of one weekend, the weather cooperated with shoppers and bell ringers, she said.

New groups of bell ringing volunteers, new locations for the bell ringers and new counter kettle locations were added this year, Allen said.

Several Fort Hays State University groups, including the Greek houses, Hays High School and Thomas More Prep-Marian High School organizations and church youth groups volunteered.

“We got a lot more youth involved,” said Brenda Vitztum, assistant volunteer coordinator. “It’s nice to have more of the teenagers.”

Staff from the Ellis County offices also volunteered as bell ringers this year, Allen said.

“We had some individuals who stepped up. They rang multiple times just because they want to help,” Vitztum said.

Allen and Vitztum also participated as bell ringers.

“It’s fun,” Vitztum said.

Several groups challenged others to a friendly fundraising contest. For instance, a sorority challenged a fraternity, Boy Scout troops challenged one another, and FHSU sports teams also participated in a challenge.

Challenge winners not only get bragging rights, they get a traveling trophy to display.

The business with the counter kettle that collects the most wins first place and gets a gold kettle to display for fundraising next year.

The Golden Q, a new participating business this year, won the title and will have the golden kettle next year, Allen said.

“They took a kettle and did really well,” Vitztum said.

Eighty-eight percent of the Christmas fundraising stays locally and makes up Allen’s budget for the next year.

“I get a lot of those odd, off-the-wall requests,” she said. “I had a lady who I needed to go buy her a fire extinguisher to be within her regulations of her case plan at St. Francis to keep her kids. That’s the nice part about it. It’s not just rent and utilities. It makes the world of difference.”

So far this month, Allen has turned down 125 requests for help. That’s more than in December. The number increases by five to 10 requests a month.

The requests come from people “in that hard in-between (place) where they don’t make enough to get by, but they make too much to qualify for things. I think it’s just going to increase as oil goes down,” Allen said.

The organization takes donations all year. To donate, contact Allen at 203 E. Seventh, Ste. A.