NEW RICHMOND -- St. Croix County Salvation Army put a $175,00 Red Kettle goal out there, not sure what to expect. November and December brought in $214,000 and giving continues.

Despite the global pandemic, local unemployment and reduced volunteers at kettle sites, 2020 was a record-breaking year.

"We were pretty worried heading into the campaign how this was all going to turn out but once again, our community rallied behind our shelter and the people we help," Director Duana Bremer said.

Donations help to fund several programs, but primarily Grace Place Homeless Shelter at 505 W. Eighth St. and the people served through that facility in other ways, including emergency vouchers for heat, electricity, and rent.

"Honestly, we're just blown away," campaign coordinator Angela Moulton said Monday. "This gives at least Grace Place some hope of what 2021 will hold."

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Moulton can't point to one particular marketing appeal or event for the campaign's success, but she has a good idea how it happened: "I think it was the complete generosity of our community. It's unlike anything I've ever seen."

Some individuals gave substantially more than they have before, she said. Others knew there were fewer volunteers ringing at stores and therefore fewer opportunities to give, that so they mailed in checks. COVID-19 prohibited the annual 30-hour bell-ringing marathon extravaganza, which has raised $30,000-$80,000 annually. Moulton said she questioned how a virtual event would work, but noted it collected $50,000.

The organization also established an online donation portal, with plans to keep the virtual kettle open throughout the year so people have another way to support Grace Place. That can be found at http://bit.ly/GracePlaceRedKettle.

Moulton summed it up: "People gave in many ways."

Last year, Grace Place shelter helped more than 300 homeless individuals, including more than 60 children. Beyond the shelter walls, Grace Place provides case management to nearly 50 sites throughout four counties. Salvation Army also works to prevent homelessness by helping people who are at risk.

“As we move into 2021 and deal with the economic impacts of COVID, we know that we are looking at a lot of people in crisis. The Kettle Campaign being such a success this year will help. We are just so thankful," Bremer said in a news release.

People can learn more at www.SAgraceplace.org The shelter is located at 505 W. Eighth St., New Richmond.