Salvation Army

With Greater Need, Less Giving, The Salvation Army Marches On

The agency fears giving in this pandemic-plagued season could be down 50%

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

The red kettles and ringing bells are synonymous with the holiday season across Chicagoland.

But this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, you might not see as many Salvation Army kettles on the streets. And the Salvation Army knows fewer people are carrying change.

"We're anticipating maybe even a 50% loss compared to last year," Major Caleb Senn told NBC 5.

But the need is greater than ever.

"We are seeing families who at one point donated to the Salvation Army and couldn't pass up a kettle," Senn said. "And now they're coming to us because they are having trouble making ends meet."

Every Christmas season, the Salvation Army's kettle campaign funds roughly 70% of the organization's annual budget. This year, the campaign, dubbed "Rescue Christmas", has a goal of $25 million for the immediate Chicago area.

"We are funding to keep people in their houses in the summer, we are funding to pay people's rent and utilities and help with food in the fall," Senn said. "Everything we bring in this season is funding us all year 'round."

At the agency's Villa Park food pantry, requests are running three times normal.

Across Chicagoland from mid-March through the end of August, the army says its Metropolitan Division distributed more than 189,000 bags of groceries, delivered more than 12,000 emergency meal boxes to individuals in quarantine, and made more than $827,000 in emergency assistance payments for rent, mortgage and utility bills.

"We were here before COVID, and we'll be here after COVID," Senn said. "To help every person in need here in our community."

To be certain, the kettles will be out there this year, especially in front of Chicago area groceries, Walmart and Hobby Lobby stores.

And in keeping with virus precautions, all feature a contactless payment system where shoppers with smart phones can give through tags which take them to a direct payment site.

The kettles also connect with Google and Apple Pay.

"We like to call it tap to pay," the major said. "You just tap your phone on it, and it will take you right to the online giving site."

Those who want to give directly can do so at the Salvation Army's website.

The Salvation Army has long been known as among the most efficient of charities. The agency says 82 cents of every dollar donated go directly to services for those in need. And all money dropped in kettles stays local.

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