Salvation Army rings in Red Kettle campaign with mix of virtual giving, and a few bells
The Salvation Army’s iconic holiday season Red Kettle bell ringers may be few and far between this year given the heightened concerns about coronavirus spread.
But the annual giving campaign is on nonetheless, and may be more important than ever given the economic impacts of the pandemic.
Karen Lee, executive director of Salvation Army-Glenwood Springs, said this year’s campaign will include a mix of in-person bell-ringing at locations that will allow them, plus a robust online giving platform.
“The bell-ringing will be happening, but we’re getting a mix of green lights and red lights as far as where they can be this year,” Lee said.
Corporate offices for the two primary Glenwood Springs and other Garfield County locations, City Market and Walmart, are leaving it up to local managers to make the call depending on local conditions.
However, many of the longtime service club and church volunteers who stand by at the kettles outside those stores are of retirement age and considered in the high-risk group should they contract Covid-19.
So, the presence of bell ringers may be inconsistent in some of the usual places, Lee said.
“We’re really trying to be flexible and let people decide how they want to give, and take some of the pressure off of our volunteers,” she said. “Many of our volunteers have been doing it a long time and really want to be there again this year, but a lot are opting not to.”
As other organizations have adapted during the pandemic, the local chapter of the national Christian-based relief agency is stepping up its online presence with a Virtual Red Kettle campaign.
There will also be contactless electronic giving options promoted at the Red Kettle stations, including the use of QR codes and tap-by-phone credit card payments, she said.
“My role here is to support each individual and to accommodate and respect everyone’s needs, wishes and desires,” Lee said. “We keep saying that one of the good things that is coming out of this new time we find ourselves in is that we’re being asked to create new ideas and methods of doing things.”
What hasn’t changed is the need that exists in area communities.
In fact, between the impacts of the pandemic and the wildfires that also effected the local economy over the summer, that need is 10 times greater this year, Lee said.
“Without the money we normally receive during our holiday campaign we don’t get to help all the people who are experiencing financial difficulty,” she said last week, as she waited on hold with a local utility to help a client get their gas turned back on.
In a normal year, Lee said her office provides about $60,000 in rental assistance. That figure has grown to $225,000 already this year, with a client list of 287 just since October.
At the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, between March and May, she said she received 750 phone messages.
“This crew of people performs amazing work through a team effort, and right now I have this truly amazing crew that is doing great things,” Lee said recently when she approached the Garfield County commissioners for some additional funding support.
The county granted $50,000, including half from the county’s CARES Act Covid-19 assistance funds and the other half from the commissioners’ discretionary funds. Eagle County also recently gave another $10,000 in support for Salvation Army’s efforts, Lee said.
“It’s in every sector,” she said. “A lot of people are experiencing the frustration and stress in different ways.”
Donors are also experiencing that stress, she noted.
“The usual kindness and compassion is still happening, but you can see it in people’s faces,” Lee said. “It’s one more question and one more decision.”
Given public health concerns about in-person bell-ringing, Salvation Army also expects to lean more heavily on the youth organizations that have been part of the effort in the past, she added
“We still need the bell ringers to be out there, because we always find that when our kettles are manned, people do drop money into it,” Lee said. “This year is really no different, but we are training our bell ringers about the new technology that we’re using.”
An anonymous donor will match up to $10,000 on all donations given through the virtual kettle starting Friday, Nov. 27. To find out more or to donate, go to the Salvation Army’s Glenwood Springs campaign page.
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