Anonymous donor puts $50,000 in Joplin kettles

JOPLIN, Mo. | An anonymous donor has come through again for the Salvation Army, dropping five cashier's checks for $10,000 each into kettles at the city's two Wal-Mart stores.

It's the fifth straight year someone has given $50,000 to the Salvation Army's annual holiday fundraiser without taking credit for the generous gesture. And while Capt. Jason Poff says he doesn't budget for the money in advance, but he admits that it's something he does hope for each year.

"We try not to plan on it because it is a gift," Poff said.

The checks, purchased from Commerce Bank, were dropped into the kettles Thursday. The remitter identified the giver as "Santa Claus."

With only a few days left in the annual kettle campaign, the donation moves the agency within $25,000 of its goal of $216,000.

Fred Osborn, president of Commerce Bank of Joplin, said he didn't know the name of the person who bought the checks at the bank, but noted that even if he did know, the information would be confidential.

"It's Santa Claus," Osborn said. "He banks with Commerce. He has for years."

Poff called the contributions "tremendous" in light of an economic downturn.

A pattern has emerged for the annual donations. They are usually put into the kettles late in the Salvation Army's campaign, and usually at a Wal-Mart. They have come in the form of checks for the last three years, while in the two previous years large numbers of $100 bills were stuffed into various kettles throughout the city.

Poff said the Salvation Army believes those cash donations totaled up to $50,000 during those two years, though he acknowledged that it's hard to tell because they were in cash.

Last year two similar checks of $10,000 apiece were given to Souls Harbor and City of Refuge, two agencies that help with the homeless.

Souls Harbor director Joan Lewis said the shelter had not received such a check as of Friday.

"We have not as of yet," she said, "but we hope we will."