ELKHART — Standing next to a red Salvation Army kettle and ringing a golden bell, Joel Helmuth says that people are in the spirit of donating.
Helmuth volunteered as a bell ringer for the first time this year, and on Tuesday, Dec. 17, he stood beside his kettle for four hours. Though his face was numb, he said his spirits were high.
“Whether it’s a quarter or 10 bucks, I’ve seen someone throw a 20 in there earlier today,” Helmuth said with a toothy grin. “It seems like people are being pretty generous.”
But contrary to Helmuth’s observations, Salvation Army officials say that the little red kettles haven’t been collecting as much in donations compared with previous years.
“We are a little behind where we were last year at this time,” said Goshen Salvation Army Major Allen Hanton. He says that while the Salvation Army has had good volunteer support, it could use more.
“We’re always looking for volunteers,” he said. However, an increase in volunteers wouldn’t necessarily equate higher donations.
With one week left in the bell-ringing season, Hanton says that Goshen’s Salvation Army is at 38 percent of its $75,000 goal. “I would have hoped to be at about 60 percent at this point,” he said.
“Plus this year we had six less days to ring,” Hanton said. Goshen didn’t start its bell ringing until the day after Thanksgiving.
This year, many volunteers and paid kettle workers began ringing bells for donations in mid-November. In Elkhart, ringing started on Nov. 15, a week later than the usual start date.
Fewer collection days could explain dwindling donations, but that doesn’t appear to be the main factor, says Elkhart Salvation Army Captain Nick Montgomery.
“I’ve talked with my other officer friends,” says Montgomery, “and there are many that are in the same predicament.”
But by Montgomery’s observation, even the Salvation Army stations that began earlier than usual are running behind.
“Obviously, the economy and the unemployment rate could all be factors,” said Montgomery, but as far as specific kettle donations are concerned, “I can’t pinpoint why an individual chooses to give or not give.”
Montgomery is nevertheless grateful for Elkhart’s generosity. “Elkhart is very charitable,” he said, since it supports the Salvation army in more ways than the kettle.
“We’re confident that we’re going to get what we need,” Montgomery said. “We are really thankful for the support that we have.”
For volunteering information in Elkhart, visit saelkhart.org or dial 970-0088, ext. 235. In Goshen dial 533-9854 or visit sagoshen.org.
Both websites provide an online red kettle for web-based donations.