Powered by community efforts at the eleventh hour, the 29th annual Chillicothe Salvation Army "Food for the Needy" Drive went from greatly underachieving to raising, perhaps, its highest donation totals ever (over $17,000) for families in need of assistance in our area, Salvation Army Major John Flanagan reported this morning.

The annual food and funding collection drive is part of a partnership between the Chillicothe Salvation Army, Constitution-Tribune, Piggly-Wiggly, and Hy-Vee.

This year, $17,786 in donations — 7,544 pounds of food (with each pound being equated to $1 in value) and $10,242 in cash — were collected.

"This is the highest it's been in the three years since we have been here," said Maj. Flanagan said on behalf of wife Faye and himself.

Final tallies came in late Sunday night (Dec. 23), with additional funding information on Monday morning being added to that total. Preliminary counts were going to be held on Thursday, Dec. 20, but the winter storm delayed such from taking place.

"That last drive — the Fill the Trailer — really made the difference," Maj. Flanagan said. "Our food pantry ran out this year, which never happens. This is an answer to some prayers."

In the Dec. 12 edition of the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune, the Salvation Army reported that only a little over $1,100 in donations had been received via this year's drive. On Sunday, Dec. 16, community members Heather Deshayes and Lisa Steele stepped forward to organize a collection event for this year's cause, called the "Fill the Trailer" drive, at both the Chillicothe Piggly Wiggly and Hy-Vee locations.

The event began at noon, and by 6 p.m., the drive had raised $3,267 in cash donations and a room filled with food. On top of that amount, was another $800 in cash collected went to purchase canned goods for the Salvation Army.

Food for the Needy had not met its annual goal since 2009, when $12,000 was surpassed with $14,665 in cash and food donations. In 2010, going from the previous year's total, a goal of $14,600 was set, yet only $4,835 in cash and donations was raised. In 2011, a goal of $10,000 was met with only $6,400 raised.

"We do appreciate the good support of the community. As always, they really support the Salvation Army," John said. "This time of year is just amazing."