You know it’s bad when a sign at Assembly of God Church in Chillicothe says the Salvation Army has run out of emergency funds.
That’s what happened this year — any Illinois Valley residents needing help could not receive assistance during  August and September.
It wasn’t for a shortage of funds, either, as volunteers rang the bell at Kroger in Chillicothe to a record $15,100 — a far cry from the first kettle totals in 1984 of $700.
October starts the new fiscal year, so residents in need now have funding, Ed Dutton, said. He came to Chillicothe to pastor Assembly of God, and after working part-time for the Army in 1994 as a field representative, and in 1998 he became the service extension director for 52 counties within Illinois and Iowa. He also serves as the volunteer Chillicothe kettle chairman.  
Among layoffs of the family breadwinner, making less money after a layoff, fewer full-time jobs, the working poor and more, the need is rising.
Generally, the Army helps a person once a year when an emergency rises.
“If you just help them over the hump, then they’ll make it,” said Dutton.
Looking at the Salvation Army figures, 70 percent of what is raised stays locally, and 30 percent is used nationally for operational costs, Dutton said.
In fiscal year 2010, which would have been money collected at the kettles in 2009, the Army spent almost as much as it received at the kettles.
Because there are so many new faces needing assistance, Dutton and Joe Langenstein of St. Edward Catholic Church discussed doing something different this year.
“That’s why the matching,” he said of a new program in which residents, businesses, groups and more can agree to match a day or half of a day’s kettle totals, up to a certain amount they choose, generally ranging from $250 to $500.
Partnering so far is CEFCU up to $1,000 when the Chillicothe firemen ring the bell, as well as J.T. Fennell, First National Bank, First United Methodist Church’s missions fund, Assembly of God, Mike and Carol Denzer, Mike and Anne Contratto,  Scott Thulean of State Farm Insurance and anonymous donors.
“I want to expand that. My goal is to get enough sponsorships to match all our money,” said Dutton.
To try to help even more families, the Army partners with Chillicothe Community Needs Agency, Chillicothe Township and First United Methodist Church if someone needs above average help.
“If it’s bigger than one can handle, we’ll network,” said Dutton.
One thing is for sure: more people are seeking help.
“People are in need and the need is increasing — and the government money is decreasing,” said Dutton.
With all the election talk earlier between which party helps the needy, Dutton said it is not a question of Democrats or Republicans.
“The government money is shrinking and the private individuals need to step up and fill that void,” said Dutton.