Red Kettle Campaign starting earlier

Keith Patton, right, mans a red kettle for The Salvation Army at Hobby Lobby on Central Avenue on Dec. 14, 2018. – File photo by Richard Rasmussen of The Sentinel-Record

The Salvation Army will begin its Red Kettle Campaign on Monday, which is earlier than usual, in hopes of offsetting an expected 50% decrease in donations it historically sees in an election year, and the COVID-19 pandemic deterring bell ringer volunteers.

Red Kettles can be found at Walmart, Sam’s Club, Kroger and Hobby Lobby, but like many other organizations dealing with the pandemic, The Salvation Army is taking advantage of virtual platforms to try to make up the expected decrease, so Red Kettles can also be found online.

“Another option that people do have if they’re just totally uncomfortable getting out and staying in front of an establishment and ringing, is a virtual kettle option that they can do,” The Salvation Army Captain Bradley Hargis said. “So if they go over to our Facebook page they can actually start their own virtual red kettle and raise money online and all of everything that they raise actually remains local.”

Hargis said this is also the first year an online sign-up tool can be used to schedule bell-ringing shifts for the volunteers at local establishments. Whether an individual or a group, interested volunteers can sign up at registertoring.com.

“We’re just trying to give people a lot of options this year, for those who are concerned and such,” Hargis said. “But in terms of seeing bell ringers around town, they will pretty much be at every historic location that we’ve always had them at. The only difference is they will be in PPE gear this year, and they will also be standing 6 feet away from the kettles.”

Bell ringers can be found at select locations around town Mondays through Saturdays until Christmas Eve.

In an extended effort to cope with the expected decrease in donations, Walmart has partnered with The Salvation Army to offer its customers the option to round up their purchases to the nearest dollar and donate the difference to the campaign.

“Get out and get involved in whatever capacity you are comfortable in doing, and I’m really just thankful for any support we get this year,” Hargis said. “I know it’s a challenging year for so many, but we’re really just trying to be a really nice bright spot at the end of the year, and to be able to step up and meet a lot of our community’s needs, and we believe that we can still do that.”

All donations made throughout the local Red Kettle Campaign will benefit the local Salvation Army chapter, making up about 10% of its budget.

According to a news release, programs supported by the campaign include:

• Social services where programs provide food, shelter, clothing and financial assistance.

• The Red Shield Cafe, a program that feeds a hot dinner meal to anyone in need.

• Youth services, with programs for music, athletics, arts and crafts, camping and family counseling.

• Senior programs focused on assisting the needs of older adults.

• Holiday programs, in which the distinctive Red Kettles are a centerpiece, to help families with children receive Christmas gifts and commodities through the Angel Tree Program.

Hargis said the main program that has shown an increased need over the past year is the requests for assistance for paying utilities, and the need for the Red Shield Cafe is expected to increase as the weather gets colder.

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