CLEVELAND (WJW)– The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on one of the most familiar efforts that contributes to the needs of local communities.
The Salvation Army said those who contributed to its familiar red-kettle campaign during the Christmas season were very generous, but concerns over the virus combined with a coin shortage and fewer volunteers to man the kettles resulted in a shortfall of about $125,000 below projections in the Cleveland area.
“There are still people who are really concerned about giving and approaching the kettle. I stood myself a couple of Fridays ago and I noticed there were many, many people who would kind of walk out of the way to stay away from myself as a collector. I don’t think that’s anything bad, I think people are just cautions and I am certain in their cautiousness there are people who chose not to give,” said Maj. Thomas Applin, Salvation Army of Greater Cleveland.
“Getting volunteers, getting people to work at the kettle has been problematic. Again, that cautiousness about the virus has made people not want to volunteer and you can only have the kettles manned if you have enough workers to collect,” he said.
The shortfall happened at the end of a year in which the Salvation Army was asked to meet more needs than usual, in particular the need for meals.
Rebecca Baker, the director of social services for the Salvation Army in Akron, said people who never asked for help before are asking for help. In Akron, the Salvation Army delivered 70 meals in the last week alone to people who are in their homes and are unable to leave.
That is in addition to rent and mortgage assistance, help with utilities, a food pantry, a soup kitchen, showers, a HUGS program that provides hats, underwear, gloves and socks for people who need them, and a day care program that provides pre-school programs as well as a center for Akron students to do their virtual schooling while their parents work.
There’s also the Harbor Lights residential effort in Cleveland that serves as many as 400 people a night, along with the need to provide them meals and help them with clothing.
“We always want to be very sensitive to what the needs are in those local communities and we are forever searching to know what to do next to provide those important services that the community needs,” Applin said.
The traditional red kettle effort, which began in early November, ended on Christmas Eve. But Applin said it is not too late for those who want to help to be able to do so.
The Salvation Army is directing people online where they can contribute to a virtual red kettle effort.
The agency is also reminding those who want to contribute that there is a tax advantage for those who give. Thanks to a new tax provision rolled out earlier this year, people are able to claim up to a $300 charitable donation, on top of the standard deduction. These donations need to be cash, check or debit, and the Salvation Army is a qualifying charity.
But time is running out. All donations for the 2020 tax season must be post marked no later than Dec. 31.
“We have not closed down our services. We continue to offer our services to the community and those heightened numbers that we have seen has a direct impact on the cost. However, we believe God is going to take care of us through this community. And this is a very generous community and in the end we are going to have what we need to take care of people,” Applin said.
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