Salvation Army aims to ‘Rescue Christmas’ with an early red kettle start

DOVER — The Salvation Army is adapting to the challenges its iconic red kettle holiday fundraising campaign is facing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

With increased services in demand due to the coronavirus, The Salvation Army is starting its red kettle campaign early – and online – for the first time in 130 years as the organization hopes to “Rescue Christmas,” the theme of this year’s annual fundraiser.

Since March, The Salvation Army of Delaware has provided more than 157,000 meals, direct assistance, emotional and spiritual support to more than 16,600 Delawareans in need, and safe shelter for more than 1,800 Delawareans who had nowhere to go.

“There is no doubt the need is great this year,” said Maj. Timothy Sheehan, state coordinator for The Salvation Army of Delaware. “We have seen unprecedented need for our basic services since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. With so many people still out of work, we know the holidays will be especially challenging for many.

“That’s why we’re determined to stay on the front lines and do our part, with community support, to ‘Rescue Christmas’ for those who come to us for assistance. We need everyone who can do so to come alongside us to make the holidays a little brighter for those who’ve fallen on tough times.”

Maj. Sheehan added that based on the increase in services already provided in response to the pandemic, The Salvation Army could serve up to 155% more people in 2020 with Christmas assistance, including putting food on the table, paying bills, providing shelter and helping place gifts under the tree — assuming the resources are available.

Due to the closing of some retail stores, consumers carrying less cash and coins, and the decline in foot traffic where red kettles are typically placed, The Salvation Army could see up to a 50% decrease in funds raised nationally through the kettles this year, which would limit the organization’s capability to provide services for the most vulnerable.

To put this in perspective, last year, $126 million was raised nationally through about 30,000 red kettles, with the Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware division raising more than $3.3 million.

That’s why getting an early start with its red kettle campaign — online and in person — is vital to try to make up the difference in increased need.

Kent County residents can help by contributing online at while residents of Sussex County can give at

People can also ask Amazon Alexa to donate by saying, “Alexa, donate to The Salvation Army,” then specifying the amount. They can also give any amount by texting KETTLE to 41444, donate digitally with Apple Pay or Google Pay at any red kettle in Delaware or donate physical gifts in bulk to The Salvation Army location closest to them, or adopt additional Angels to give hope to kids and families in need through the Angel Tree program.

The traditional red kettle campaign will have bell ringers in front of retail stores bringing in the holiday season in early November.

To help ensure the safety of bell ringers, donors and partners, The Salvation Army has adopted nationally mandated safety protocols. Face masks will be worn, and kettle equipment will be cleaned daily prior to use. Red kettle signs are also enabled with Apple Pay and Google Pay technology, enabling contactless donations.

Every donation online or at the kettles provides help to those in need, and all gifts stay within the community in which they are given.

“Getting an early start with our red kettle season this year is crucial to our ability to continue to serve those most in need in Delaware,” said Maj. Sheehan. “Every dollar is critical. While you may not see our red kettles out and about until early November, we’ve made it safer and easier to donate now by giving online.

“We are hopeful that starting early will help us make up for any losses at the kettles and ensure that we can continue providing the critical services we offer to those in need.”