The Salvation Army bell ringers with their Christmas cheer and silver bells are collecting fewer donations compared to the same time last year, Salvation Army Oklahoma City Area Commander Dan Proctor said.
Proctor said the red kettle campaign needs to raise an additional $64,000 to match the approximately $460,000 collected last year.
“We don't know why we are short. It's unusual to be down this much at this time of the year,” Proctor said.
Director of Development Jeanean Castle said the unusually warm weather could be a factor, as people tend to drop more money in the kettles the colder it gets.
Castle said several retailers and businesses changed their policies this year and did not allow bell ringers on their premises before Thanksgiving.
Proctor declined to say which businesses made the change.
“We really appreciate every business that allows us to have a kettle; however we are bound to comply with national guidelines that are set each year and we are not here to make judgments about them,” Proctor said.
Castle, who has been director of development for The Salvation Army for two years and volunteers as a bell ringer, said the need for assistance in the Oklahoma City metro area has grown.
“Most of these people have jobs and work hard but can't make ends meet and need us to help fill the gap. The demand for assistance has been high this year and typically when demand is high donations are low,” she said.
Castle said the correlation between donations being down and the need for assistance up is a reflection on the economy.
Castle said the money raised each year through red kettle donations helps the young, poor, hungry and homeless.
The Boys and Girls Club of America, The Target Back to School Program, disaster and emergency relief efforts, homeless shelters, food and clothing drives and assistance in providing families with toys and food for Christmas are a few of the charities and efforts The Salvation Army supports.
“We give fans in the summer and coats in the winter. If there's a human need, our mission is to meet it,” Castle said. “Last year we were able to help 140,000 people in the Oklahoma City metro area.”
Castle said for each dollar The Salvation Army receives, 84 percent goes to the charities it supports.
Proctor said the money raised from the red kettle campaign helps the community throughout the year.
“One thing we say here is that need has no season,” Proctor said.
To help increase donations, The Salvation Army has created a “virtual red kettle” so people can donate online at www.christmaskettle.com.
Bell ringers accept checks, cash and credit cards with card swiping devices on volunteer's iPhones in each participating community.
Castle said bell ringers try their own methods of increasing donations such as giving out candy canes and dressing up as Santa Claus.
She said even with donations being low she is surprised by the generosity she sees from the community.
“The other day I had a grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter stop by and donate. Three generations. They said it was a family tradition,” she said.
“I am always surprised by the people who donate. Sometimes people you would think need the money stop to give it. I hope we'll raise the money but there's no way to tell yet. This is God's work, we're just the hands and feet of that work,” she said.
Castle said while bell ringers will accept donations until Dec. 24, people can donate online anytime.
“Every nickel, dime and quarter helps. Many hands make work light,” she said.
How to help
Make a donation online
To help increase donations, The Salvation Army has created a “virtual red kettle” so people can donate online at www.