Salvation Army pushes to ‘Rescue Christmas’ early as millions reel in pandemic

A Salvation Army bell ringer amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Salvation Army bell ringer amid the COVID-19 pandemic. | Salvation Army

Facing a possible drop of up to 50% in fundraising from its iconic Red Kettle Campaign and a 155% increase in demand for its social services, The Salvation Army is launching its annual holiday fundraising campaign early for the first time in 130 years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has brought about just incredible crises for families all across America. Many of the families we serve, some of them have lost their jobs, some of them have been impacted and have had COVID in their own families. And when you lose income and you’re sick and you can’t afford basic necessities for your family like food, rent, utilities, it puts you at a crisis that you’ve never experienced before,” Dale Bannon, The Salvation Army’s national community relations and development secretary, told The Christian Post Tuesday.

“We have had waitresses, I think of one in Indiana … She said ,‘I’m a single mom. I have two kids and I’ve been doing very well until I was laid off from my job.’ She said, ‘This is the first time I’ve had to ask for help and I just need food for my family.’ That story is amplified by the thousands, … millions that we’ve seen all across our country.” 

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Since March, America’s largest social services organization has provided more than 100 million meals, 1.5 million nights of safe shelter, and emotional and spiritual support to over 800,000 people through 7,600 centers of operation across the country.

As they look forward to Christmas, The Salvation Army is now being forced to get creative in its fundraising work as the pandemic threatens giving through the Red Kettle Campaign, which raised $126 million through about 30,000 red kettles last year alone.

With many retailers shuttering and studies showing more consumers moving away from cash and coins toward e-commerce, The Salvation Army is hoping consumers will help them recoup the anticipated shortfall through a variety of electronic means so they can help an estimated 7 million at-risk people this Christmas.

The Salvation Army USA sets out to “Rescue Christmas” due to the impact of COVID-19.
The Salvation Army USA sets out to “Rescue Christmas” due to the impact of COVID-19. | Salvation Army

On Sunday, the Christian organization, whose founders sought to bring salvation to the poor, destitute and hungry, released its “Help Rescue Christmas” campaign video to the soundtrack of two-time Grammy Award-winning and multi-platinum selling artist Lauren Daigle’s hit “Rescue,” which was described as the anthem for the campaign.

“We’re anticipating just with the shortage of cash, there’s also less retail stores than there were last year, we’ve got to do something and do it early to communicate to the American public. Help us meet the needs of people this Christmas. Our Christmas assistance program provides food, we also provide toys for parents who are struggling between maybe paying the rent or keeping their lights on,” Bannon said.

“It used to be you could come into our pantry and select items to help sustain your family for food. We immediately knew we couldn’t do that due to social distancing and we started doing drive-thru pantries where you just come with your car, put the food right in the trunk of your car. Then we started getting unique calls where people say, ‘I don’t have transportation but I still need food,’” he explained.

“We had a donor of ours, many of our donors give us $25 a month. … We had a donor in New York, she was elderly. We just asked how she was doing and she said, 'You know, I don’t have any family near me. The governor tells me I really shouldn’t go outdoors and I don’t know how to order groceries online. Can The Salvation Army just bring me some food?’

“And then we move from drive-thru pantries to delivering boxes of food on people’s doorstep. We’ve had to be agile and adapt because the need has been so great. And that’s one thing that we’re concerned about as we move into Christmas, is that the pandemic is still impacting millions of families.”

One of the biggest concerns the organization has is ensuring that families remain in their homes over the holidays.

While President Donald Trump’s executive order provides an eviction moratorium for renters, which started on Sept. 4 and runs until the end of 2020, evictions have continued for some, according to Forbes.

Citing a recent report by Popular Information, a news and politics newsletter, it was found that proving the executive order’s requirements may be too onerous for people who are disproportionately affected by the pandemic and who may lack access to legal help. It was also found that even some landlords have been filing eviction proceedings against tenants, challenging whether or not they meet the criteria to benefit from the moratorium.

In order to be protected from eviction under the executive order, in the absence of other state protections, individuals must earn $99,000 or less, $198,000 for a couple filing a joint tax return or must have received a stimulus check.  

They must also prove that: they have made “best efforts” to get all available government assistance for rent or housing; they are unable to pay full rent or make a full housing payment because of lost income, being laid off, or had out-of-pocket medical expenses; made partial payments wherever possible; and that if they were to be evicted, they would likely be homeless, need to move into a homeless shelter, or share a new residence in close quarters with multiple people.

“Moratoriums are starting to expire on rent for evictions. And so if you’ve been unemployed for six months but your landlord hasn’t been able to evict you, as the states release those moratoriums, we have families who are going to be in major jeopardy in staying in their homes and so The Salvation Army has been a leading provider of cash assistance for rent and utilities support,” Bannon said.

“We really believe that we prevent homelessness when we can keep a family intact in their homes so all across the country we already provide rent and utility assistance. … We know that families are going to be struggling with those basic necessities. If you’re trying to stay in your home by paying the rent and utilities and keeping your family warm in cold states, you might not be able to think about what your kids need for Christmas or what you’re going to have on the Thanksgiving table in terms of a meal. You’re just going to need that extra support and so that’s why we’re asking the public to join us early in this Rescue Christmas effort.”

The Salvation Army is urging donors who want to help to enlist in its Love’s Army with a sustaining monthly gift of $25 per month or donate through the red kettles. Digital donations are also being accepted through Apple Pay or Google Pay at any red kettle across the country. Donors can also give any amount by texting “KETTLES” to 91999 or through Amazon's Alexa by saying, “Alexa, donate to The Salvation Army,” then specifying the amount. Other ways to donate can be found at The Salvation Army's website.

When asked if he thinks the Red Kettle Campaign might someday become obsolete as consumer behavior shifts toward more digital platforms, he said he doesn’t believe it will.

“I think we’ve had to be agile and flexible with the Red Kettle campaign. The Red Kettle campaign this year celebrates 130 years. It’s remarkable. It’s iconic. When you think of Christmas, you see the red kettle and the bell ringer, you know that it’s really time to think about others and to support your neighbors in need. We hope and pray that the red kettle never leaves because I think it brings out the spirit of generosity in communities,” he said.

“We’ve had parents say to us and grandparents, generations, say, ‘I first learned how to give to others through putting money in the red kettle. But at the same time we know that when people carry less cash we have to be more agile and flexible and provide more options to give so online options are critical.

“I think it’s more, not that the red kettle will go away, but expanding the red kettle so that we think not just in front of the store with a bell ringer, but that we can encourage giving in all platforms at all levels.”

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