PORTLAND — The Salvation Army’s annual holiday Red Kettle Campaign is a valuable tradition for the organization and those who depend on its support.
But there’s a significant lack of volunteer bell-ringers for this coming season, which could threaten the overall success of the fundraising effort. That’s because the Red Kettle Campaign is the Army’s major annual fundraiser.
All proceeds go “to meet the needs of community members in crisis, not only during the holiday period but throughout the year,” the Portland Corps said in a press release. And, “the Army relies heavily on volunteers to man the Christmas kettles to meet (its) fundraising goal.”
A fundraising shortfall, the organization said, “means serious consideration may have to be given to how existing programs and services can be continued, while new programs and services to meet the increasing and changing needs of the community may not be introduced.”
While the official kick-off for the Red Kettle Campaign will be held on Nov. 19 at noon, bell ringers began manning the Christmas kettles on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 22 locations across southern Maine. Those kettles will be in place through Christmas Eve.
At the Nov. 19 event, the Portland Corps will announce its overall fundraising goal, according to Maj. Ronda Ferreira, the kettle campaign coordinator for greater Portland.
Last year’s red kettle goal was $190,000, but the corps fell short by over $28,500. In view of this, Ferreira said keeping the bells ringing is more important than ever this holiday season.
“Bell ringing is a great way to make an impact in the community,” Ferreira said. The only job requirements are to “smile, ring the bell, and have fun,” she added, and signing up is easy.
“Bell ringing has become a cherished tradition for many groups and individuals who sign up every year,” she said. “Knowing that the couple of hours spent standing at a kettle has made someone’s holiday brighter adds to their own joy.”
Ferreira said while a variety of groups, organizations, businesses, families and individuals have already signed up to cover a bell ringing location for a day, there are still many days and locations left to fill.
She said the Salvation Army understands there are increased demands on people’s time these days and that’s especially true during the holiday season. But being a bell ringer is “really a win for everyone,” she said.
Ferreira said typically large groups of volunteers take an entire day and rotate in teams of two every two hours. Small groups or individuals usually serve for half a day, but the Army also has two-hour shifts available at select times and locations.
She said the weather often has an enormous impact the kettle effort, both when it comes to people being willing and able to ring a bell, and people being out and about to drop money into the kettles.
“The Red Kettle Campaign is still our most significant fundraiser and is most important to the people we serve,” Ferreira said. “The Salvation Army as a whole serves more than 6 million individuals every year during the Christmas season and more than 32 million people are served by The Salvation Army on an annual basis.”
Those who wish to donate can text the word “Portland” to 91999, donate online or mail checks made out to Portland Christmas Kettles to P.O. Box 3575, Portland, Maine, 04014.
Holiday services include toys for children, food for families, clothing, and small practical gifts for shut-ins, Ferreira said. “Throughout the year the Salvation Army in Portland also provides specific programs to aid those who are experiencing hardship,” she added.
“The need is always great, not just during the holidays,” Ferreira said. “With the public’s continued generosity and support of our annual red kettle campaign, we will continue to reach out in love and compassion to as many people as we can.”
This story was updated to add information about last year’s fundraising campaign.
Salvation Army bell-ringer Mark Shall, dressed as a penguin, thanks donors at Cabella’s in Scarborough on Saturday, Nov. 10, the first day of the organization’s annual kettle drive. Shall said he has been volunteering for 14 years. (Dudley Warner / For The Forecaster)