Kyla Ferns

Salvation army kettle drive feeling the pinch in Greater Victoria

Low donations could mean fewer services for those in need in 2014

With Christmas Day fast approaching, the Salvation Army is starting to get nervous about low donations for its annual Red Kettle campaign.

Volunteers out in the cold with jingle bells in hand are doing their best, but the campaign as a whole is feeling the pinch of a struggling economy and low numbers of volunteers.

If not enough funds are raised, community ministries director Pat Humble said Salvation Army administrators will have to sit down and take a serious look at the level of support the organization will be able to offer in 2014.

“It’s a big concern,” said Humble. “Can we keep them going? Can we offer the same services all year? … To be able to meet those needs with our counsellors or our training classes or emergency resources, it’s tough.”

By Dec. 13, the most recent stats available, about $72,000 toward the goal of $250,000 had been raised by the campaign. This is about equal with the same time last year, but the 2013 campaign started a week earlier.

Last year was also a weak year for the campaign. Out of a goal of $250,000, only $170,000 was raised.

Organizers of the campaign are hoping for a big final push in the days leading up to Christmas to help make up some of the shortfall.

One of the primary reasons the numbers are down, organizers said, is there simply aren’t enough volunteers to go out and collect donations by kettle. The charity’s toy shop and food hamper have more than enough volunteers, but finding people willing to stand outside with a kettle can be challenging, Humble said.

“We’re having a hard time getting folks on them right now,” Humble said. “Standing in the cold, or standing at all, with a bell for a while isn’t attractive to people.”

In terms of donors, Humble recognizes how strapped for cash most people are these days. Those in need are in greater need, but financial hardship seems to be more widespread. Humble has even seen previous donors coming in to get food hampers.

“That’s crazy,” Humble said. “The people that need it are in greater need this year, but the same thing that affects them is the same thing that’s affecting donors.”

Those who can’t give financially are encouraged to volunteer their time and help man a kettle over the next week. Anyone interested in volunteering is asked to call 250-386-8521.

“Two hours on a kettle makes a huge difference,” Kyla Ferns, communications, said. “That enables us to collect money and every donation that goes in the kettle, whether it’s 10 cents, $10 or $1,000 will make a huge difference. It all adds up.”

“We just want people to look at what they’re able to do to make the difference,” Humble said. “

Toys, non-perishable food and warm winter clothing are also accepted as donations.

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