A shortage of bell ringers

The Salvation Army needs some secret Santas to help with annual fundraiser

Jim Lundstrom

Concerns centered around the COVID-19 pandemic may be the cause behind shortfalls in volunteer registrations at the Duluth Salvation Army.

Three programs are particularly impacted by these shortfalls: the Christmas distribution, gift wrapping, and the iconic Red Kettle bell-ringing initiative.

For the Duluth Salvation Army, the pandemic has served as somewhat of a double-edged sword. The economic fallout of the pandemic has led to unprecedented increases in demand for services.

Nationwide, The Salvation Army has seen a 155% increase in the number of people served since March.

At the same time, pandemic concerns have reduced volunteer registrations and will likely mean significant shortfalls in funds raised through its iconic Red Kettle initiative.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in ways we never imagined – and that includes the Duluth Salvation Army,” said Captain Teri Ellison. “Increased demand for services and a reduction in volunteer numbers is creating enormous challenges for us.”

The Red Kettle campaign is the annual Christmas initiative that helps to fund The Salvation Army programs year-round.

This year’s initiative is called Rescue Christmas for the most vulnerable.

Red kettles will start appearing in Duluth on Saturday, Nov. 14, and will wrap up Thursday, Dec. 24.

The Duluth Salvation Army kettle goal this year is $215,000 and more bell-ringing volunteers are needed in order to meet this goal.

Volunteer bell-ringers raise, on average, $59 per hour in their red kettle. With that amount, the Duluth Salvation Army can feed 24 people with a daily lunch.

With 17 kettle locations, there are 2,753 two-hours shifts for volunteer bell-ringers. As of now, more than 2,300 two-hour shifts remain open.

“Bell-ringing is a safe and fun activity for individuals and families, and companies could consider manning a kettle for a day or perhaps longer,” said Ellison. “Every kettle is outfitted with contactless digital payment options, and a single shift is just a two-hour commitment.”

Groups, businesses, civic organizations, families and churches are encouraged to participate.
No more than two volunteers can be at a kettle, unless from the same household, where up to four are allowed.

Volunteer gift wrappers are needed between Dec. 1–24 at Miller Hill Mall. Shoppers can bring their purchases for gift wrapping services. All donations for wrapping services go toward helping people from the greater Duluth area at Christmas and throughout the year.

The Duluth Salvation Army is also asking for volunteers during Distribution Week, Dec. 14-18. Food will be distributed on Monday, Dec. 14. Food boxes and toys will be distributed Tuesday, Dec. 15, through Friday, Dec. 18. Volunteers are needed to assist the Duluth Salvation Army staff with distribution during the hours of 9 am and 4 pm with appropriate safety protocols followed.

Jersey Mike’s, Little Caesar’s, Texas Roadhouse, Duluth Grill, OMC Smokehouse, Corktown Deli and Brews, and Toppers Pizza are generously donating lunch to the volunteers and staff that are part of Distribution Week.

“We fully understand the concerns people are having about volunteering,” said Ellison. “We want everyone to know that masks, distancing, sanitizing, and gloves, when needed, are standard protocol for all volunteers.”

Those interested in volunteering can visit DuluthSA/Volunteer for more information or call 218-722-7934.