The iconic red kettles and bell ringers will be out again this Christmas season in hopes of raising $160,000 for the Salvation Army of North/Central Brevard, but the pandemic has scared off some bell ringers and reduced projected donors.
“Volunteerism is down 75 percent because of COVID,” said Business Administrator Kathy Broome. “Our volunteers will wear masks, even though they’re outside, and gloves, and will be asked to move back a few feet as people come to put in money.”
Kettles also will be periodically sprayed with antiseptic. “It’s a little bit of extra work, but we’ll be safe,” Broome added.
Corps officer Maj. Roger R. Ross said the Red Kettle Appeal began in the late 1800s.
“The funds we raise here is a large part of our operating budget. It supports our social service outreach programs, food pantry, youth development programs and adult programming,”
Nationally, the organization worries that kettle donations could plummet because shoppers aren’t carrying cash or coins and are purchasing online, which decreases foot traffic. This year, some grocery stores and malls were closed or more restrictive to bell ringers. Kettles in 22 locations in Central Brevard County and 10 in Titusville will have ringers Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Dec. 24.
New is a kettle at the Clear Lake Road Wal-Mart in Cocoa, where the money collected is dedicated to the Domestic Violence Program.
“COVID has provided some unique challenges to our fundraising, so we are going to try this,” said Cindy Mitchell, director of the Domestic Violence Program.
Bell ringers can volunteer for as little as two hours or four-hour shifts. Businesses or individuals can sign up at Registertoring.com. There, volunteers can choose a location to serve, including the site dedicated for Domestic Violence Program expenses. Volunteers can call 321-632-6060, ext. 18.
“If you have a buddy or a family, this is a great way to give back. Students can use it for their volunteer hours,” Mitchell said.
Slots not filled require paid ringers.
This year, Walmart and Sam’s Club clerks will ask customers if they want to “round up” their total to the next dollar to support the Salvation Army. “This will be a great help to achieving our goal,” Ross said.