WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — It is that time of year we are used to hearing certain bells and seeing red kettles in the community to help struggling individuals and families. But this year, we are hearing and seeing far less of them because of the impact the pandemic is having on the Salvation Army.
This Schiel’s Family Market and a volunteer bell ringer there are the exception, and not the rule this holiday season. It puts the Salvation Army, which counts heavily on this fundraiser, in a precarious position.
It is the first holiday season Mark Thomas is manning a Salvation Army Red Kettle station and ringing a bell. In any given year, he would be among nearly four dozen volunteers. But not the year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was surprised to see how many people, how few people came out,” said Thomas.
Thomas is just one of six volunteer bell ringers representing the Salvation Army Wilkes-Barre Chapter. Also down? The number of participating businesses: from 45 to just 15. It adds up to some troubling news.
“It is such a bad time. People are out of work, yeah, and the kids need to have a Christmas, naturally,” Catherine Jones, a donor from Hanover Township said.
The Salvation Army Wilkes-Barre Chapter runs a good pantry and homeless shelter and typically helps hundreds and hundreds of struggling families each holiday season.
“My fear is that I am not going to be able to help everyone that comes for help because we just do not have the resources this year,” said Lt. Ismael Ortiz with the Salvation Army of Wilkes-Barre.
The lack of bell ringers and business partners forced the Salvation Army to think outside of the box. This year, they are also taking their bell ringing online.
A virtual kettle campaign is set up on the Salvation Army’s Facebook page. In the meantime, at the traditional red kettle stands you can drop money in the kettle or scan the QR code with your smartphone and make a donation that way. But either way, Lt. Ortiz has one wish.
“If you see one, please, anything helps. Anything helps,” Lt. Ortiz said.
The Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign continues through Christmas Eve. The virtual kettle campaign lasts one week longer through New Year’s Eve.