Salvation Army in need of volunteers

Tyrel Linkhorn

Joan Krop stood bell in hand yesterday at the Ravenna Giant Eagle. Kropp has volunteered with the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign for more than five years. Photo courtesy of Tyrel Linkhorn

Credit: Dan Kloock

Shoppers may have to look — and listen — a little more closely this year for one of the holiday season’s traditions.

More than ever, the Salvation Army is struggling to find volunteers to operate its Red Kettle campaign, the organization’s largest yearly fundraiser.

Major Marie Edinger, with the Salvation Army’s Portage County chapter, said she thinks it’s an issue of people becoming increasingly busy.

“I don’t think there’s a lack of volunteerism, I just think there’s a lack of time for a lot of people.”

Finding volunteers is so difficult, chapters nationwide are hiring people to stand in with the Red Kettles and ring the small bells.

Though Edinger said Portage County has thousands of volunteers, the county still had to hire some individuals for the campaign. Edinger expects as Christmas approaches, they will have to hire additional people.

Bonnie Schubert, office manager and bookkeeper for the Portage County chapter, said six individuals have been hired so far.

These people, she said, are hired to work 20 hours per week, though only one of their hires this year has put a full week in. They are paid Ohio’s minimum wage, $6.85 per hour.

Edinger said having to pay people to take the place of volunteers cuts into funds the Salvation Army would normally distribute to Portage County’s needy. And the campaign is already slightly behind last year’s pace, having brought in $10,398 as of the end of November. At the same point last year, they had raised $11,111.

In total, the kettle drive brought in $67,120 last year. This year’s goal is set at $68,000.

In addition to Christmas baskets and gifts of toys and clothes for children, the money raised by the Red Kettles also helps get the Salvation Army — and its beneficiaries — through the winter months, helping with utility bills, food, prescriptions and other basic needs.

One area the organization hopes will make up some of the difference is online donations. Two years ago, the Salvation Army began allowing people to set up their own online kettles where others can donate money. Donations can also be made directly to the Salvation Army, and the donor can specify which office the funds will go to.

“A lot of people like to do that nowadays because a lot of people don’t carry cash anymore,” Edinger said.

Portage County is in its second year of using the online system, and Edinger said she thinks online donations will continue to increase.

Still, Edinger said online is no substitute for the real thing.

“Our best effort here is through the Red Kettle itself that people see,” she said.

And it’s not so much the location of the kettle than the mindset of the volunteer. Things work best, she said, “when a worker is friendly and active and right there at the kettle.”

Along with other members of the Ravenna Rotary Club, Michael Lewis was volunteering yesterday with the Red Kettle at the Ravenna Giant Eagle.

Lewis said the Rotary asks the different charitable organizations what they need each year, and the Salvation Army always asks for bell ringers. Lewis himself has been doing it for more than 10 years.

“I think it’s important to give back to the community,” he said. “There are always people less fortunate than you are.”

Contact public affairs reporter Tyrel Linkhorn at [email protected].