LEE COUNTY, Fla. — With the holiday season around the corner, The Salvation Army of Lee, Hendry, & Glades Counties is getting ready to kick off their Red Kettle Campaign.
Their biggest fundraiser of the year.
But this year, the Salvation Army says the pandemic has created greater challenges in finding volunteers and getting donations.
“This year, we feel that is going to be more important than ever before,” said Major Carlyle Gargis, Area Commander for The Salvation Army.
Money raised from this campaign goes towards helping people not just at Christmas but year-round.
With the pandemic impacting so many families in Southwest Florida, The Salvation Army Fort Myers Area Command says they’re projecting a 155% increase in need.
“We hope to raise over 700,000 dollars to meet this need that we’re looking at,” said Major Gargis.
But they can’t meet that need without help; they’re in desperate need of what they call ‘an army’ of volunteer bell ringers.
“It’ll probably take close to 500 folks manning the red kettles in all of our Southwest Florida locations,” said Major Gargis.
Mables Hughes has been a volunteer bell ringer for over six-years.
“You meet all kinds of people, and I love to talk,” said Hughes.
Hughes says she's not letting the pandemic stop her from volunteering this year.
“I said you don’t have to worry, if you let me come back this year, I’ll wear a mask if that’s what you guys want,” said Hughes.
The red kettles will be out the morning after Thanksgiving, at over 60 locations in the Fort Myers area and throughout Southwest Florida.
“We’re going to be able to provide our volunteers with masks, gloves, hand sanitizer,” said Eric Lane, Campaign Manager, The Salvation Army of Lee, Hendry, & Glades Counties.
People will be able to drop their cash or coins into the kettles or donate virtually.
“Something, the Salvation Army, added last year is our touchless Apple Pay and Google Pay,” said Lane.
With a projected 50% decrease in donations this year, The Salvation Army Fort Myers Area Command hopes this method will help them meet their goal.
“What this allows our patrons to do is when they walk by if you don’t have cash on you, this still gives you the opportunity of giving through your phone,” said Lane.
To learn how you can become a volunteer bell ringer, or for more ways to donate, click here.