THE SPLIT BETWEEN the Salvation Army and the central coordinated clearinghouse for Carroll County's annual fall charity drive may hurt fund-raising efforts by both organizations.
Or it may prove that Carroll countians can be more generous if given a choice of charitable channels through which to direct their holiday contributions to the less fortunate.
We hope that the latter is true, that the threat of dueling campaigns does not materialize, that the community does not abandon its duty to share because of this schism. This divergence of approaches shouldn't encourage people to haul out the feeble excuse: "I already gave to the other guys."
Holiday fund-raising and charitable efforts have been coordinated for some years through Neighbors in Need, a clearinghouse run by the Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc., a non-profit group in Westminster.
The clearinghouse has helped charities to pool resources and divide the work. It has avoided confusion among donors and helped to prevent duplication of services, selecting families and individuals to receive charitable aid through a screening process that uses referrals from social workers and government agencies.
But the Salvation Army believes that it can be more effective by operating its own program in Carroll. This is in part a reflection of the denomination's determination to strengthen its presence in the county. The group points out that its holiday fund-raising campaign is recognized nationwide and that it serves as the clearinghouse for consolidated solicitation drives in other communities.
The issues of religious counseling and recipient eligibility also play a role in the Salvation Army's decision to part from Neighbors in Need. "When people come for help, we want to give spiritual gifts, also," says the Salvation Army's William Meeks.
He also maintains that using his group's national guidelines helps identify those who are most in need of charitable assistance.
The Salvation Army remains a part of the United Way. It will share recipient lists with the non-religious Neighbors in Need to prevent duplication. But Carroll County will see two drives for holiday donations this year. We hope the combined response is more generous than ever.