Salvation Army Delaware expects donations to be down $250,000

The Salvation Army's signature red kettles, and volunteers who ring bells to attract donors, are still out this year, but in limited locations and at limited times because of tightened COVID-19 restrictions.

Salvation Army volunteer Bernard Tingle, of Dover, rings a bell near the red kettle at Safeway in Dover on Dec. 2.

Because of the limitations, the Salvation Army Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware started its drive early for the first time in 130 years, said Lt. Colonel Larry Ashcraft, divisional commander. 

To date, donations are down 46%, Ashcroft said last week.

Major Timothy Sheehan, state coordinator for Salvation Army Delaware, said kettles are allowed at area Walmart stores, but they might not be easily seen, due to social distancing.

Donors will have "to listen for the bell" that volunteers ring.

‘Rescue Christmas’

Reginald Montour, a lieutenant for the Salvation Army in Dover, said the demand for their food pantry is up about 50%, compared to this time last year.

More:'Listen for the bell': Salvation Army kettles are still out, but limited due to COVID-19

This year’s theme for the Salvation Army is “Rescue Christmas.” The Dover headquarters at 611 Forest Ave. has received over 179 families register to receive Christmas toys, which will be distributed Dec. 15-18.

Through the Salvation Army’s partnership with Walmart, people can visit pa.salvationarmy.org and purchase gifts for families in need. Registration ends Dec. 18.

You can choose to have Walmart deliver gifts to your local Salvation Army or you can personally deliver them yourself. You can also buy gifts at Walmart, or elsewhere, and drop them off at the Salvation Army.

Sheehan said people have the option of donating money toward gifts once they’re in a Walmart checkout line that has a cashier, but not in the self-checkout line. Once you make your purchase, you’ll have the option to donate.

He said the goal is to also provide baskets of food for families on the waiting list seeking toys.

While he’s not sure yet if they’ll be able to accommodate everyone with Christmas baskets of food, he said they’re still giving out food daily through their food pantry, thanks to assistance from their partners like the Food Bank of Delaware and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Montour said families in need of food can go to the Dover location, which is open between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Trying to keep faith

During the pandemic, Sheehan said, they've seen people who used to put money in the kettle now need assistance themselves.

Sheehan said a nationwide coin shortage might come into play, which could impact fundraising. He said there are "not a whole lot of coins hitting that kettle."

Sheehan also said a number of locations are not able to allow the kettles because of the coronavirus pandemic, "which we completely understand."

The Salvation Army has contactless ways people can donate.

Tax deductible donations are being accepted online on the Salvation Army's website, salvationarmydelaware.org. The organization has virtual kettles set up for Delaware's three counties – New Castle, Kent and Sussex.

Sheehan said he doesn’t know exactly how a decrease in funding from the red kettles would impact programming this season, because it’s still being reviewed.

But he said he’s optimistic because the organization is faith-based; and although things look shaky, all it takes is for one generous donation to bring them to where they were in 2019. Last year Delaware’s red kettles raised around $500,000, he said. This year he expects to raise only half of that.

"It's tough all the way around. We're asking those who can [to] dig a little deeper for those who can't," Sheehan said. "Those who have been supporting us, we are deeply appreciative."

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