The cash-strapped Salvation Army has warned that this year's annual appeal, launched last weekend, is "absolutely vital in terms of sustaining our programmes".
Long-term funding difficulties mean the future of some Salvation Army projects hinges on whether the two-week fundraising drive achieves its £3 million target.
Around a quarter of British homes will be leafleted for the 2002 appeal, which was given a celebrity launch by two of the stars of TV drama London's Burning. But the Army's Major Bill Cochrane warns the organisation is involved with firefighting of its own in the face of continued annual shortfalls.
"Reduced funds this year could threaten our relief programmes which could be a major loss to our community and emergency services who rely on Salvation Army support,
he said. "As well as helping emergency crews we are called on to provide evacuation support, food distribution, shelter, family rehabilitation and welfare."
Major Cochrane's description of the appeal as "absolutely vital
comes two years after the Salvation Army laid bare its plight. At the start of the 2000 appeal, the charity revealed it faced a £5 million shortfall and a similar loss is forecast for 2002 to 2003. Last year's appeal had a £3 million target but fell short by £100,000. Nevertheless, it was one of the most successful of recent times.
Michael Garner, who plays Geoffrey Pearce in the LWT drama, and Glen Murphy, who plays George Green, helped generate publicity at the start of the 2002 appeal.
Founded by William Booth in 1865, the Salvation Army runs 50 homeless centres, 21 centres for the elderly and eight family centres. It is the largest single provider of social services in the UK after the Government.