ELKHART — The Salvation Army of Elkhart will be fighting for funds this season as two of its most prominent bell-ringing storefronts have decided not to allow the nonprofit at their locations.
“In a way, it’s a part of the challenging trend that the Salvation Army has been seeing over the years as there is more of a reservation – to have less outside,” Elkhart Capt. Shawn DeBaar said.
The two unnamed locations generated nearly $10,000 last year and have been long-standing stations for the bell ringers, he said.
“It’s been a little bit of a challenge,” DeBaar said. “Finding another retail location equivalent to the ones we lost is not going to be a feasible option.”
The Salvation Army found out in the first week of November that it would not be permitted to return to the locations this season.
Unlike other locations where bell ringers serve, these two had allowed bell ringers to start at the beginning of November. Most do not allow bell ringers until after Thanksgiving.
November and December are critical to the Salvation Army’s funding. The organization raises half of its annual budget, nearly $500,000, in these two months alone, and about $100,000 of it historically has come directly from kettles watched by bell ringers.
“The challenge for us is, although the bell ringers only make up about a fifth of our volunteers, they’re the most visible,” DeBaar said.
Even when people do not donate to kettles watched by the bell ringers, the volunteers encourage or remind the public to donate by mail or online.
“We’re really relying on our community to help us make this up,” he said. “We’re hoping to be able to still see those dollars realized so that we can still serve people as expected.”
During the holiday season, the Salvation Army spends a substantial amount of its budget – events such as Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners at the Matterhorn for the public, and to help those in need with utility and grocery bills.
In addition, nearly 400 families have already signed up for Christmas assistance, which provides clothing and toys for children who otherwise might not receive a Christmas present.
More are expected to sign up at the end of the month.
DeBaar and the Salvation Army are asking residents to continue to donate, even though the organization’s visibility will be decreased.
DeBaar said to consider throwing a couple extra dollars into kettles at other locations or donate through other avenues.
People can donate online or get more information at centralusa.salvationarmy.org.