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Salvation Army struggling with need for bell ringers and donations

BARRE, Vt. (WFFF) — It’s a sure sign of the holiday season—the sound of bells ringing and the sight of red kettles while out doing your holiday shopping. But this year, the Salvation Army is struggling to find funding, even as its largest fundraiser of the year is in full swing.

“I’ve never seen the need greater than it is now,” said Lt. Chris West of the Barre Salvation Army. The need for many things—bell ringers, donations, and help for families—has grown amid the pandemic. West says their goal is $80,000 dollars. Right now, they’ve raised $20,000. He says while donations are down, the need is tremendous.

“We normally serve, here in central Vermont, right around 300 people, food-wise, a week,” he said. “That has gone up to 1500 people a week.”

West adds they typically man 20 red kettle stations in the community, but right now only have on average, 3 bell ringers a day. It’s a similar story at the salvation army in Burlington.

“Due to COVID, we’ve really struggled to get the volunteers and employees like we usually do,” said Capt. Dominic Nicoll. “So we’ve definitely found it hard to get out there this year.”

Salvation Armies throughout New York are facing similar issues. A press release from the Empire State Division of the Salvation Army says in part: “Due to COVID-19, donations to red kettles are about 50% of what they were this time last year across the division, which covers 48 counties in Upstate New York and one city in Pennsylvania.”

“In a typical year, we serve around 4 and a half million meals throughout our division,” said Major Ivan Rock, Commander of The Salvation Army Empire State Division. “This year, we served more than 5 million meals in just March through September and the need continues to grow.”

The money raised will go toward toy drives, food programs, and day to day operations. In some areas, the need has gone up three times over the course of the pandemic.

“Most who aren’t used to this, needing help,” Nicoll said. “But may have lost a job or source of income and we want to be there for these people the best we can.”

The Salvation Army says it has expanded donation opportunities to include text to pay and mail in options. The information available online says you can donate in any of these ways:

All funds donated stay within the area communities they are donated in.