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Salvation Army adjusts Red Kettle Campaign

Ilsa Minor | Daily Press Salvation Army bell-ringer Art Davey rings his bell as an Elmer’s County Market shopper drops his change into the red kettle. The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign has been forced to adapt to a COVID-19 world.

ESCANABA — As the virus responsible for COVID-19 wreaks havoc on Americans’ day-to-day lives, the Salvation Army is soldiering on with its goal of providing community support to those in need and is continuing its Red Kettle Campaign — albeit, with a few changes.

Much of the annual campaign has gone virtual, with digital payments being accepted throughout the campaign, but the iconic red kettles and bell-ringers will still be out at stores around Delta County.

“We’re trying to do both because we’re not really sure how everything is going to play, out so we do have the classic kettles out there,” said Major Alex Norton of the Escanaba Salvation Army.

Bell-ringers, armed with face masks and sanitizer, will be located at locations around Delta County including Walgreens, Hobby Lobby, Walmart, Pat’s IGA in Gladstone, Elmer’s County Market, Tractor Supply, and the RRN Media Plaza. The city of Escanaba has also allowed the Salvation Army to set up bell-ringers on any of the city’s sidewalks.

Ringers are taking extra precautions when accepting donations at the kettles. In addition to sterilizing the kettles hourly and wearing masks, each bell-ringer is required to wear gloves and to stand back six feet anytime someone is making a donation.

“I have walked around gone to different kettle locations, and it has been nice to see the kettle bell-ringers are very personable even at that distance, but we’re trying our best to social distance with everything going on,” said Norton.

However, even with the precautions, the Salvation Army isn’t sure how effective the kettles will be in the COVID-19 world. Cash and coin shortages, as well as many businesses requesting customers avoid paying in cash for sanitary reasons, could mean less pocket change and other cash ends up in the kettles. In addition, those who are most wary of the virus may still choose to keep their distance or simply avoid the high-traffic locations the kettles are typically found.

That’s where the virtual campaign comes into play. For those who are tech-savvy, the Salvation Army is running television ads and sharing QR codes, which, when scanned with a cell phone, will take users to a website for credit card payment. That QR code appears in multiple locations — including on the aprons bell-ringers are wearing this year.

The donation website can also be found through a computer by visiting https://donate.salvationarmywi.org/give/259470/#!/donation/checkout

Those who would prefer a lower-tech option or prefer to donate by check can find donation envelopes in the weekend editions of the Daily Press throughout the remainder of the campaign. The red and white envelopes are pre-addressed, but a stamp is required.

In a typical year, the Red Kettle Campaign provides roughly 1/3 of the Salvation Army’s operating budget, and helps support the many social services the Salvation Army provides. With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these programs have become vital to people across Delta County.

“In the past we could really kind of bank on how things would play out depending on the seasons, depending on how people receive government assistance, and all those different factors. But this year, the COVID has thrown in a-whole-nother wrench into the process, and so we kind of see these spikes and then things kind of let off a little bit and we have more spikes,” said Norton.

Despite the virus — which hit Norton and his wife earlier this year — the Salvation Army has been working through the pandemic to continue meeting those needs even during the spikes.

“We’ve been on the frontlines taking care of these people through all of this, through assistance; through food,” said Norton.

One other key way individuals can support the Salvation Army’s efforts without a financial obligation is to become a bell-ringer. Bell-ringers can be either volunteers, who are asked to ring for a minimum two-hour shift, or paid ringers, who start out at $9.65 an hour and typically ring most of the ringing hours, which run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“We need bell-ringers bad. We need paid bell-ringers really bad; we need volunteer bell-ringers really bad,” said Norton. “We just hired on our staff for this year and two of them already have COVID, so that means they’ll be gone for 14 days and we won’t have them to ring. So we definitely need people to help us cover these spots because as everyone knows, if there’s not someone standing at a kettle site, people don’t feel safe enough to put money in.”

Anyone who is interested in ringing is asked to call the Salvation Army at 906-786-0590 for more information about volunteer or employed ringing.

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