MAINE, USA — For the first time in 135 years, the Salvation Army will kick off its Red Kettle drive early, in an effort to "Rescue Christmas."
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Salvation Army predicts it will see a 155 percent increase in the need for services this year. Those services include food, shelter, help with utility bills, and Christmas toys for children who might otherwise go without.
"These unprecedented times. We're all living in a book that hasn't been written yet but we do know for certain the amount of people coming through our doors or to our doors on a daily basis is growing," Salvation Army Captain Michael Harper said.
Harper and his wife Major Armida Harper say this year the number of people seeking help will be staggering.
"You can't turn people away when there coming to you and there at the lowest part of their life asking for help," Armida said.
Money raised from the kettle drive helps people not just at Christmas, but year-round.
"It's so important we get the support we need so we can help people get their rent paid, they don't have to worry about, 'Is my house going to be warm enough for my kids? Am I going to have food to put on the table?'" Armida said.
While the need is tremendous this year, the Salvation Army is concerned that less foot traffic and fewer people carrying cash and coins may lead to a 50-percent decrease in kettle donations.
"With less kettle money to help provide Christmas and the need being greater we have to start that much earlier," Harper said.
As usual, the bell ringers and the red kettles will be out in November following nationally mandated safety protocols. In the meantime, the digital portion of the drive is starting now.
Longtime Salvation Army Bell Ringer Mark Shapp will be back manning a Red Kettle this November wearing his go-to penguin costume. It's a big hit with the kids.
"It brings joy to my heart to see people want to contribute and want to help others and that is what it's all about, helping our neighbor," Shapp said.
Shapp, who has been a volunteer bell ringer for 15 years, has raised approximately $125,000 for the Salvation Army.
"The salvation army is there for people when they need it the most said Shapp.
And that need that has never been greater than it is now.
Since March, the Northern New England Division, which serves Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, has provided more than 600,000 meals, distributed 39,562 drinks, and 44,000 snacks to those in need.
To make it simpler and safer to donate The Salvation Army has set up the following ways to help 'Rescue Christmas.'
- Enlist in Love’s Army with a sustaining monthly gift of $25 per month.
- Donate digitally with Apple Pay or Google Pay at any red kettle in November
- Ask Amazon Alexa to donate by saying, “Alexa, donate to The Salvation Army,” then specifying the amount.
- Give any amount by texting “KETTLES” to 91999.
- Donate physical gifts in bulk.
- Adopt additional Angels to give hope and joy to kids and families in need through The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program
Every donation stays within the community in which they are given.
Visit RescueChristmas.org to donate or learn more about how you can help The Salvation Army rescue Christmas this year. If you need services or know of someone in need, visit SalvationArmy.org or contact your local Salvation Army location near you.