Donations down for holiday giving tradition

Most know the holiday season has begun when the familiar sound of a ringing bell and the sight of a smiling face greet them as they walk into a store. 

November 19 marked the start of an annual tradition that first began in 1891. The Salvation Army is known worldwide for their red kettles, but what is not as widely known is that 100 percent of the proceeds collected go back into the communities where the donations were given to assist families with things like utility bills and the purchase of Christmas presents. 

Christmas assistance provides families who have applied and meet the requirements with gift cards with which to purchase gifts for their children. This is a new practice that started after the pandemic forced people to stay home instead of going to a store and picking an angel from a tree. 

Bill pay assistance is a year-round service through which the Salvation Army helps individuals pay delinquent utility bills such as water and electricity to keep them from being shut off. 

The Salvation Army relies on volunteers to ring the bells, but states there has been a marked reduction in the number of people willing to donate their time, leaving the organization to hire people to man the kettles. The hired staff are paid directly out of the kettle donations, which lowers the amount of funds available to help those in need.  

Not only are volunteers dwindling, but the amount of donations has seen a drastic downturn. In 2014, kettles in Chipley and Bonifay collected $10,000. In 2019, that amount was down to just $4,000 collectively. 

Social Services Case Worker Emily Creek says it is getting harder to help everyone who needs it. 

“Our goal is to help people,” said Creek. “We can’t help people if our funds are dwindling.” 

The need for volunteers is at an all-time high this year according to Creek. “We are in desperate need of volunteers,” she said. “If you can give two hours of your time, I promise it will be worth it. The people you get to meet and the stories you get to hear, make it all worth it.” 

For those who may have community service hours bell ringing is eligible to fulfill them. If you or anyone you know is interested in volunteering time to ring a bell visit and choose the location and hours you wish to volunteer at through Dec. 24. 

Creek says she is proud to work for an organization that although based in Christianity is as accepting and indiscriminate as the Salvation Army.  

“The Salvation Army serves without discrimination,” said Creek. “We do not care what your race, creed, faith, orientation or sexuality is, we are here to help all those in need.” 

Kettles can be found this year at the following locations: Washington County – Piggly Wiggly and Walmart. Holmes County – Piggly Wiggly and Grocery Outlet.