Salvation Army forced to adapt efforts during pandemic

Salvation Army volunteer William Latham rings the bell as a Hobby Lobby shopper donates in Dover on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Ringing the bells outside of businesses this holiday season just isn’t enough for The Salvation Army to cover the needs of the less fortunate.

That’s why the nonprofit organization has been forced to adjust to the times, during a COVID-19 pandemic that is making it challenging for many to donate.

The Salvation Army was a participant in Giving Tuesday, joining the world in a day of charitable aid. Money raised Tuesday will help The Salvation Army’s Delaware Command in its efforts to “Rescue Christmas” for Delawareans who are still struggling due to the impacts of the coronavirus.

Based on the increase in services already provided in response to the pandemic, the organization 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, said Patrick McDevitt, spokesman for the Army’s Delaware Division.

Last year, The Salvation Army’s Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Division raised $3.3 million through its traditional holiday Red Kettle campaign, which helps cover the costs of its year-long programming. However, due to reduced foot traffic at stores, as well as more people shopping online, picking up curbside and carrying less cash and coins, early projections indicate this could be a difficult year for kettle fundraising.

“It’s also been tough to find bell-ringers during a pandemic when the COVID-19 numbers are on the rise,” said Maj. Timothy Sheehan, statewide coordinator for The Salvation Army’s Delaware Division. “The needs within the community are greater than ever, though, for those seeking food, shelter, rent and utility assistance and other services that we offer. We want to help them and give them hope, and we’re counting on our donors to support our efforts.”

Giving Tuesday, which started eight years ago as a grass-roots movement that empowers millions to give to their favorite causes and find common ground, occurs annually on the Tuesday following Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Giving Tuesday offered donors a safe, contactless, way to contribute online to The Salvation Army’s efforts to rescue Christmas for those who are really hurting this year. All the money, which is tracked by the donor’s ZIP code, stays local to help people in great need who live nearby. Delawareans can donate at salvationarmydelaware.org.

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 nd safe shelter to more than 1,800 Delawareans who had nowhere to go.

Giving Tuesday provided yet another opportunity for people to help the less fortunate.

“Generosity has the power to unite and heal communities in good times and in bad times,” said Maj. Sheehan. “We are counting on the community to help us stay on the frontlines serving all who come. No act of generosity is too small.”

To help further The Salvation Army Delaware’s fundraising efforts in these unprecedented times, as well as make it easy and secure for folks to give, it has also partnered with Walmart, which will offer customers the option to round up their purchases to the nearest dollar and donate the difference to The Salvation Army.

Customers can do this in stores at manned cash registers, on Walmart.com or through the Walmart app. The option to donate will run through Dec. 31.

The Salvation Army’s Red Kettles and iconic bell ringers are also at participating Walmart stores this year, with strict COVID-19 safety measures in place with face masks being worn and kettle equipment cleaned.

“Giving at the kettle is even easier this year, as each red kettle is equipped digitally with Apple Pay or Google Pay,” Mr. McDevitt said. “Simply swipe and go.”

Kent County residents can also help by contributing online at https://give.salvationarmy.org/campaign/dover-christmas-kettle/c300227 while residents of Sussex County can give at https://give.salvationarmy.org/campaign/seaford-sussex-county-christmas-kettle/c302422.

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 physical gifts 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.

“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,” Mr. McDevitt said.

Reach Mike Finney at 741-8230 or mfinney@newszap.com.