The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle program will go on as planned.
MARTINSVILLE – You’ve probably seen them before, the folks in red apparel ringing bells outside of stores around the holidays. COVID didn’t change those plans this year for the Salvation Army or their “army” of volunteer bell ringers.
Lt. Bradley Mumford, corps officer at the Salvation Army in Martinsville, went forward with the program this year. However, like most things in 2020, it’s a little different.
A challenging time
The program doesn’t differentiate from the way people make the donations. Loose change, dollar bills and checks will still make their way into the red kettles. However, the ultimate goal for the fundraiser changed from the year before.
“Our kettle goal this year is $50,000 – and what that money does, it provides clothing, food, shelter and of course, you know, of course, first and foremost hope for people who come through our doors,” Mumford said.
The corps officer expressed that the fundraising amount didn’t come at random, but took much thought and consideration.
“That number, $50,000, it’s not just a spitball type number,” Mumford said. “It’s not just a number we throw around.”
Mumford noted that the Salvation Army estimated the amount based off of average monthly needs.
“We generally serve anywhere from 25 to 30 people a month,” Mumford said. “We know that with $50,000, that will help us to be able to allocate the proper budget from month to month for our emergency social services. During this whole pandemic, we’ve been able to serve about 30 people. And that’s why, again, with the goal of $50,000 with our red kettle campaign, we want to be able to continually serve more people.”
Mumford noted that the number of people they assisted during the pandemic was higher than average. That’s because several people lost their jobs – either as a result of widespread pandemic layoffs or because they fell ill with COVID-19.
“These are also individuals because of COVID, their bills racked up tremendously,” Mumford said. “They exhausted all their savings.”
The corps officer expressed that COVID brought people to the Salvation Army who normally would not need further assistance. Sure, people experiencing chronic homelessness and joblessness still came through the doors and received help, but those who recently lost their jobs or faced underemployment due to the pandemic also came forward with their struggles.
“Some of these individuals that come through our doors are middle-class people, working class,” Mumford said.
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A lowered goal
Due to the pandemic, the local Salvation Army lowered their Red Kettle fundraising goal from the typical $60,000. Mumford stressed that the decision came not from a lack of faith, but from a place of understanding.
“And the reason for that is again, when I use that term ‘economical strain,’ we take that into account as well. We realized that that’s going to play a big part. So it’s not that we lowered the standard or we lowered the bar in our campaign. We recognize that, and being considerate of the needs in the same token that we’re meeting needs, we also considered the needs of the community,” Mumford said. “Obviously with the economical strain, COVID being rampant, you know, coin shortage, all of these things to take into account. It’s not, again, we lowered the bar, but we were very considerate of that need. So we lowered it $10,000 this year.”
With the pandemic in full swing, the Salvation Army worked with local retailers, whom allowed volunteer bell ringers to set up their stations early this year.
Even though the ringers only rang two days earlier than in years past, the 48 hours made a slight difference.
“One thing for us too, is we gained a week,” Mumford said. “[We were] able to have the privilege of being able to ring at Walmart a week earlier than we normally would. So that has significantly helped as you could probably imagine.”
While the corps officer expressed thanks to every business with a kettle out front, he called the local Walmart location the “bread and butter” for donations.
“It’s what helps generate the most revenue for kettle income, that fundraiser,” Mumford said. “The partnership with Walmart is so valuable, as such with any store, any place that we had the privilege of ringing, but, being able to ring at Walmart a week early, it was really a game changer. I would say if we didn’t have that privilege a week earlier, we obviously would probably not be at this point that we are.”
Thanks to the generosity of the community – and each supportive local business – Mumford said the Salvation Army is currently on track to meet their $50,000 goal by Christmas Eve.
“It is on target as it stands and we are fairly confident we’re going to be able to do it, but we definitely need to try to get the word out, especially with volunteers,” Mumford said.
The corps officer looks for friendly volunteers committed to the goal.
“Always, it’s 100% goal oriented in a sense that we know without a shadow of a doubt, every time we have a volunteer manning the station, that we know 100% of that revenue coming in is going to go right into that campaign,” Mumford said.
With less than two weeks to go, the campaign is well underway. As of Thursday, the community gave approximately $34,000.
“We’re going to be ringing until the 24th of December. So we’re more than halfway there,” Mumford said. “Thankfully, I feel pretty confident people are going to continually step up in the community and support us.”
As the weeks until Christmas turn into days, Mumford expressed that the red kettles outside of stores are more than a fundraiser – it’s a message.
“That kettle symbolizes hope,” Mumford said.
Amie Knowles reports for The Dogwood. You can reach her at [email protected]