Salvation Army Delaware donations down this year

Salvation Army Lt. Tim Devine rings a bell in front of the Camden Walmart on Tuesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — The Salvation Army bell ringers in Delaware have been ringing up the Christmas spirit alongside those traditional red kettles, but many passersby have provided them with a “Bah humbug” response when it comes to making donations this year.

In fact, with just four days left until Christmas, The Salvation Army Delaware announced that donations to its annual Red Kettle fundraising campaign are down throughout Delaware, presently at 50 percent of its overall goal.

The iconic tradition of bell ringers and red kettles is the most recognizable fundraising effort of The Salvation Army. It’s almost as Christmassy as Santa Claus himself.

Last December, Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott helped raise awareness to The Salvation Army campaign when he jumped inside an oversized kettle just outside of the end zone to celebrate scoring a touchdown.

The Salvation Army said that in the 24 hours following Mr. Elliott’s memorable leap last year, the organization raised $180,971 in donations.

This year has been a different story, according to Lt. Colonel Stephen A. Banfield, Division Commander of The Salvation Army of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware.

With donations dwindling, The Salvation Army has issued an urgent plea to individuals, corporations and groups to generously give to its’ Red Kettle campaign.

“We rely on the Red Kettle campaign to help fund our many social services, which provide a lifeline to individuals and families struggling to make ends meet,” said Lt. Colonel Banfield, division commander of The Salvation Army of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware.

“Without sufficient donations to the kettle campaign, I am concerned about our ability to meet the need for social services and continue providing the same level of service across the region.”

People can place monetary donations inside the red kettles, which will be stationed in prominent locations throughout the state until Saturday.

Salvation Army Lt. Tim Devine holds the bucket as a man donates a bag of coin in front of the Camden Walmart on Tuesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

The Salvation Army in Dover runs 18 different Red Kettle campaigns at stores in Kent County such as Acme, Food Lion, Walmart, Redner’s, Safeway and Sam’s Club from Smyrna to Dover to Milford during the holiday season. The kettles are all staffed by volunteers.

Lt. Tim Devine, of the Dover branch of The Salvation Army, said this is his favorite time of the year, while ringing a bell outside of the Walmart in Camden on Tuesday.

“This is my favorite program that we get to do because you get to see people’s humanity,” Lt. Devine said. “It is a blind-faith that the money in this red kettle is going to go to some good.

“What people don’t realize is all the money that goes in here and is sent in stays in Kent County. It’s for programs throughout Kent County, and not all of the people who put their money in those kettles are aware of what that money does for their neighbors.”

Officials for The Salvation Army said around 33 percent of the organization’s total yearly donations come through the Red Kettle campaign, which only runs from late November until Dec. 24.

They added that 82 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to funding Salvation Army initiatives, such as helping local residents who are in need of food, shelter and utility assistance, emergency disaster relief, as well as numerous educational, music and after-school programs throughout Delaware.

All the money stays within the community in which it was given.

Major Paul Cain, the state coordinator for The Salvation Army, said the organization relies on the kindness and generosity of the communities that it serves.

“The people whom we serve in Wilmington and throughout Delaware face challenges every day due to poverty, homelessness, loneliness and food shortages,” Major Cain said.

“We strive to meet these needs with love, grace, and hope, but we need your help. We cannot fulfill our obligations to the community without reaching our financial goals.”

In recent years, the bell-ringer program has raised up to $144 million over the holiday season.

Cash donations are accepted at any of The Salvation Army’s Red Kettles during the remaining days before Christmas. Secure credit card donations may be made online at www.salvationarmydelaware.org.

“Please remember The Salvation Army and your neighbors in need this holiday season,” said Lt. Colonel Banfield. “We are extremely grateful for your continued support and ongoing generosity.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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