PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ You see them every year around the holidays: the Salvation Army bell ringers.
But amid the coronavirus pandemic, it’s unclear how much money the Rhode Island Salvation Army will raise through their Red Kettle Campaign this holiday season.
What is apparent, however, is the huge need for help within the community.
“It’s a big part of our budget – we rely heavily on the income we raise through the ringing of the bells,” Associate Coordinator for The Salvation Army of Rhode Island Major Carol Duperree said.
Due to the pandemic, Duperree said the tradition will be slightly adjusted this year.
“We have to socially distance our bell ringer from the kettle and we have COVID policies for handling the money and keeping the kettle clean,” she explained, adding that bell ringers will also be required to wear masks and gloves.
Duperree said money raised from the Red Kettle Campaign primarily helps them purchase holiday gifts for at least 12,000 of kids across the state, and this year, they anticipate that number to increase.
She said the remainder of the money raised trickles down into their other programs.
“Our food program is a big program right now,” Duperree said. “There’s so many people affected because of COVID … we do more than food, we also need clothing and household goods.”
She said The Salvation Army also has special COVID-19 assistance for those who qualify.
Last year, Duperree said the Red Kettle Campaign raised $200,000, which was just shy of their goal by $50,000.
As concerns grow about being down donations for this year, she said the demand for help within the community continues to rise.
“In Pawtucket, they’re feeding about 200 people a week,” she said of the city’s soup kitchen. “Here in Providence, we’re seeing about 75 on average a week, and in Newport, about the same.”
At some soup kitchens across the state, she said, they’re seeing seven times the number of people they typically do.
“I think it will go to 10 times probably,” she said.
In addition to providing meals through their community centers, Duperree said they’re also handing out emergency disaster food boxes, which are stocked with non-perishables. She said those who are eligible will receive a box every three weeks.
Duperree said The Salvation Army is in need of volunteers this year to help sort through gifts and ring bells for the Red Kettle Campaign, which begins Friday and runs through Christmas Eve.
She said they’re hoping donations for the Red Kettle Campaign will reach at least half of what they raised last year, but because of the pandemic, it’s unclear whether they’ll reach that goal.
For those who don’t have cash on them, Duperree said each kettle will be equipped with a QR code that will take you to their website to donate.
Anyone who has questions regarding the campaign or needs help donating online can reach out to The Salvation Army nearest you:
- The Salvation Army, Pawtucket: (401) – 723-9533 or (401) 723-9534
- The Salvation Army, Providence: (401)831-1119
- The Salvation Army, Newport: (401) 846 -3234