OGDEN -- They did their annual effort to man the Salvation Army's red kettles at area businesses Saturday, but Ogden's Noon Exchange Club may already have this year's money-raising competition among social service agencies in the can.
That's thanks to an anonymous $100,000 donation they put in a kettle during one of their meetings earlier this month.
"We ceremoniously became champion of the kettle," said Jim Johnston, the Exchange Club member who arranged to surprise the rest of the club, as well as Salvation Army officials, with the unexpected gift.
"A man came to me and he had this donation," Johnston said. "He wanted to make sure it was anonymous."
But the South Ogden resident said pride in his club led him to present the check at a time when it could be placed into a red kettle.
Having been a member of one Salvation Army board or another since 1962, Johnston said he knows the money will go to good use.
"The Salvation Army has had a presence in Ogden since 1887," he said. "I always thought that organization got the biggest bang out of the buck of any of the social service organizations."
Salvation Army Lt. Peter Pemberton said he was shocked and elated by the large gift.
This Christmas season's collections have proved fruitful, not only because of this sizable donation but because of other large gifts as well, he said.
"The community is coming together. We're having a good kettle year."
Pemberton said that, in addition to the $100,000, an anonymous donation of $16,000 came in Friday while another member of the noon Exchange Club was working a kettle,
But the donation that brought tears to a kettle worker's eyes was $2 from a woman who said she was losing her house but she still believed someone else could use her money more than she could.
"It reminded me of when Jesus asked who gave the most," Pemberton said.
Pemberton and his wife, Jan, have only been in Ogden a few months and already have been behind major changes in the way the Ogden facility does business, namely the closing of a women's live-in drug and alcohol program in order to transfer resources to other programs.
Pemberton said when he received the $100,000 check, he promised members of the Exchange Club that the money would help area residents.
"All our funds stay local. We're going to stretch those dollars as far as we can."
Pemberton said he hopes to start a gardening program for area Title One schools.
Other programs in the works are classes to help clients learn to cook healthfully on a budget, English as a second language and how to write resumes.
Clients who use the Salvation Army food bank for three months or more will be required to attend family services programs, he said.
"We don't want to enable people to stay in the positions they are in," he said. "We want to allow them to climb out of that unfortunate situation."
Pemberton also wants to expand Salvation Army youth programs by adding creative arts and musical instruction.
"We've got a really, really bright future here in Ogden as far as continuing services to the community," he said.
"This check will go a long way toward that goal. We've been working hard. This community is certainly worth it."
Excluding the $116,000, Pemberton said donations are about 10 percent higher than what is normally collected by this time each year.