Salvation Army in desperate need of kettle volunteers
Major John Merchant with the Salvation Army of Jamestown spent the first day of the Red Kettle campaign — the annual fundraiser that helps a range of local programs and services — interviewing applicants due to a critical lack of volunteers.
Though the drive officially kicked off Thursday, only a handful of hours were filled by volunteers at a few locations. That meant a lot of silence at places normally ringing with bells from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Merchant said the Salvation Army’s advisory board has been busy trying to find as many volunteers as possible to keep the locations — including Tops in Jamestown and Falconer as well as Walmart and Kmart later this season — occupied with ringers. He said the board has been able to find a few volunteers from those who have helped in the past, though most of those shifts are for later in the season, when Merchant said donations are harder to come by.
“We’re trying to do our best to make sure we can keep helping the community,” Merchant said. “We’re hoping that the community can get behind us at this point as they have done in the past.”
The local Salvation Army is hoping to raise $112,000 in Jamestown and $57,000 in Dunkirk in this year’s campaign. Merchant said Jamestown’s goal fell short last year for the first time since he’s been with the nonprofit.
“We’ll take any volunteers we can get,” Merchant said. “Anything people are willing to do we’ll take. Ideally, it would be good to get someone for more than an hour, but right now we’ll take anything.”
As was the case last year, the Salvation Army will have to pay bell ringers to fill shifts. Merchant said he took a lot of grief for going that route previously, though he noted that it’s better to pay someone and have a body at the kettles than to receive no donations at all.
“We’re looking at that choice,” Merchant of paid bell ringers. “It’s not much of a choice at this point. A lot of people were upset that we did that, but it’s better to make half the money than no money because it will cost half to pay them.”
Locally, funds received from the Red Kettle campaign help the Salvation Army provide a host of services to the community. Groups that receive aid include the Christmas Assistance Program, which provides both the Angel Tree Ministry Christmas gift program for children and the Christmas food basket program. The Community Cares Program provides nursing home services to residents every month, while the Bundle Them Up program provides coats for children every year.
The ANEW Center also benefits from the donations.
“We started (Thursday) but we only had a few hours covered,” said Merchant, who estimated about 60 volunteers will help in the first couple of weeks. “Without reaching the goal, we can’t do as much as we normally do for the community.”
“We’ve been pretty fortunate,” he continued. “Last year was the only year we didn’t meet our goal. We hope that won’t happen any more.”
Those who are interested in volunteering, or to hear more about the campaign, call 664-4108.