For the first time in the Salvation Army’s more than 150-year history, the organization launched its Christmas fundraising campaign Monday, titled “Rescue Christmas,” almost two months earlier than usual.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a fivefold increase in individuals seeking assistance from the Salvation Army for basic needs, such as food and rent, said Lt. Col. Lonneal Richardson, metropolitan division commander for the Salvation Army, who is responsible for all operations in Chicago and the metro area. That’s a big reason why the organization is starting holiday fundraising earlier this year.
Nationally, the Salvation Army has served more than 100 million meals since March, as well as more than 800,000 people through its various programs, according to a statement from the national organization.
“Coming to the Salvation Army has become a mainstay in how (people) provide for their families,” said Richardson. “All of our programs have seen a dramatic increase in individuals seeking assistance, housing or other types of aid from the Salvation Army, and we know it will continue throughout Christmas as well.”
Up to 70% of the Salvation Army’s direct fundraising takes place around Christmastime, said Richardson, with a significant portion of holiday fundraising coming through the organization’s iconic red kettles and bell ringers.
But since many people aren’t carrying cash anymore and may not be traveling to stores as much this year because of the pandemic, Richardson says the organization is expecting a 50% decrease nationally in amounts raised this year.
“This year we know that people are reluctant to have direct contact with individuals,” said Richardson. “We have seen recently a decrease in those who carry currency or cash to put in the kettles, so we know this year is going to be especially challenging at a time where the need has never been greater.”
In order to meet the increased demands, the Salvation Army is looking for Chicago and the surrounding area to raise about $45 million, said Richardson.
“While at the same time, programs that we have that are in place 365 days a year, that continue to operate are in need of those funds as well,” he said.
The red kettles are still anticipated to be out by November at local Jewel-Osco grocery stores and Walmart stores throughout Chicago, as well as at some of the Salvation Army’s other partners. Digital pay options, like Apple Pay or Google Pay, will be available at all the red kettles.
And if you don’t want to leave your house, you can make an online donation. Mail-in donations also are an option. Cell phone savvy? Text “KETTLES” to 91999 to give. If you have a form of Amazon’s Alexa in your home, you can use the smart device to donate.
Richardson said they are calling on the public to help us “rescue Christmas” so that those surrounding us — such as our neighbors, friends and coworkers who are in need of assistance this holiday season — don’t have to go without.
“We all are concerned about the effects of COVID, and as the media has indicated, it is apparent that many of our poor and underprivileged neighborhoods and neighbors are being greatly affected,” said Richardson. “Not just with the disease itself, but the economic impact this has brought on in our communities. So we are asking citizens to step up and help us to provide for those who are less fortunate and vulnerable.”