Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign making pandemic changes

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign will look different this year with changes being made because of COVID-19.

The Kalamazoo office says that bell ringers will be required to wear face coverings, stand farther away from the kettle and be encouraged not to touch the donations. Bell ringers will also wipe down the kettle after each donation.

Tim Summers, the director of development, says they may have fewer collection sites because the uncertainty of the pandemic has meant the nonprofit is waiting to get approval to use several traditional retail locations.

“Businesses want to keep their customers safe and they certainly want us to be safe as well when we’re out bell ringing,” Summers said.

With the potential for fewer sites, each kettle will be more crucial in the effort to reach the $500,000 goal the local chapter has set for the campaign.

“Our bigger concern is, with the pandemic, there’s a national coin shortage and about 20% of all our kettle donations are change. There’s less people physically shopping at stores this year,” Summers said.

In order to maximize the donation period, red kettles will start appearing much sooner, well before the traditional Black Friday rush.

“This year, some of those locations have already decided to let us start bell ringing earlier. In fact, we can start bell ringing as soon as Halloween day,” Summers said.

The Kalamazoo office says, because of the pandemic, the need for the first eight months of this year was up about 55% compared with the same time period in 2019.

Digital donations will also allow people another option if they are no longer carrying spare change.

“We’re really putting a greater emphasis on letting the public know that Apple Pay and Google Pay is available, along with some of the other options like Amazon Alexa and virtual kettles,” Summers said.

If you would like to learn how you can donate to the virtual kettle or if you are a business owner wanting to donate to the Kettle Kick-off, visit the Central USA Salvation Army website.