The Salvation Army is looking for volunteers to ring bells encouraging passersby to drop change into the iconic red kettles seen during the holiday season, a fundraising tradition dating back to 1891.
The origin of The Salvation Army red kettle is in California, regional coordinator of The Salvation Army for St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John Capt. Wanda Rivera said.
“The Salvation Army captain in San Francisco had resolved, in December of 1891, to provide a free Christmas dinner to the area’s poor persons. By Christmas 1895, the kettle was used in 30 Salvation Army locations in various sections of the west coast area,” Rivera said.
Amid a global health crisis, Rivera said, volunteering to man a red kettle station will be different this year.
“The red kettle will be different because people who used to donate can’t do it for various reasons this year. Places that we used to stand we will not be able to do it. Because of COVID-19, we must start earlier,” Rivera said.
“COVID-19 has not only created a bigger need for us to fill, but it has also decreased the number of traditional red kettles you’re used to seeing on street corners and at store entrances each Christmas season. We could see up to a 50 percent decrease in red kettle funds this year due to several factors,” Rivera said.
Some of the factors Rivera thinks will contribute to a lower fundraising total are consumers carrying less cash and fewer coins, more online shopping which means less foot traffic in shopping areas, high unemployment rates and the recent closures of some brick-and-mortar retail stores.
All the uncertainty around fundraising and growing community need has caused Rivera to dub this kettle season Rescue Christmas.
Rivera said The Salvation Army needs volunteers across the territory Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“The volunteer will be ringing the bell, talking to the people and getting people to put money in the kettle,” Rivera said. “I need everyone who wants to ring the bell as much as they want. I will need volunteers who can do it every day, but I will need people who want to do two hours.”
The locations for red kettles may change based on how many volunteers are available, but tentatively there will be red kettle locations at Kmart, Cost-U-Less, Plaza Supermarket, Pricesmart, the United States Postal Service and Walgreens.
Those who wish to volunteer can call The Salvation Army’s office at 340-776-0070 or email [email protected].