The Twin Cities Salvation Army scaled back its 2012 Christmas campaign fundraising goal but still remains about $700,000 short of its target, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Still, the charity is hopeful that a public appeal made on New Year's Eve will bring enough envelopes in the mail this week to reach its $9.8 million goal.

"I felt better [about making the goal] two weeks ago," said Annette Bauer, public relations director for the local organization. "I thought we'd be further along."

The local Salvation Army set a larger goal in 2011 of $10.9 million, but fell $680,000 short, she said Tuesday. It was the first time in more than 15 years that the local organization did not meet its goal.

"We thought we would be a little more realistic and aim for $9.8 million [in 2012]," she said. "We hope we can make that." After its New Year's Eve plea Monday about $35,000 came in from online donations, she said.

Bauer said that missing that goal would mean pulling back on some outreach programs at a time when the Salvation Army is seeing a rise in requests across the board.

Faced with continuing fallout from the recession, she said, the local charity handled record numbers in all categories of care in 2012 -- utility assistance, hot meals, food shelf visits and housing.

With costs continuing to rise and budgeted dollars relatively the same, she said, the Salvation Army had to cut spending on some services last year. Rather than provide a family with four bags of groceries, the group is giving three. Instead of a maximum of $450 for rent assistance, it is offering $300.

The $3 million of contributions brought in locally through the bell ringers this past Christmas was about the same as in 2011, she said. But the number of volunteers who rang the bells was down slightly. Volunteers provided about 14,000 hours, compared with 16,000 hours in 2011. The Salvation Army estimates that one hour translates into one volunteer, she said.

The Salvation Army also had about 60,000 hours of paid bell ringers.

There were two major contributions through the 2012 bell-ringing program. One came in a check for $24,000 from someone who gives every year, Bauer said, while a new donor dropped in a check for $25,000.

Contributions can be made online at SalvationArmyNorth .org. Checks can be mailed to the Salvation Army, 2445 N. Prior Av., Roseville, MN 55113. People can call 1-800-SAL-ARMY to make a credit-card donation or text the word "Blessing" to 80888 to make a $10 donation, which will be added to cellphone bills; data rates may apply.

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224