Salvation Army donations down in state

Recorder Staff
Wednesday, December 20, 2017

ATHOL — Red Kettle donations to The Salvation Army are down across the state, and the North Quabbin region is no exception.

Lt. Michael Buzzard, of the Salvation Army’s Athol Corps, said the organization is on course to fall short at least $10,000 of its $50,000 fundraising goal and he is appealing to community members to be as generous as they can as the fundraising effort enters the homestretch.

The Salvation Army is responsible for the familiar red donation kettles on street corners and outside retail stores this time of year, almost always with a smiling volunteer bell-ringer greeting people. Buzzard said average kettle donations in the area have dipped 15 to 20 percent from last year.

Drew Forster, director of communications for The Salvation Army Massachusetts, said they are down 13 percent at the state level.

Buzzard said the Athol Corps has had a $50,000 goal each of the past four years, and last year was the first and only time that figure was reached. He attributes this year’s drop in donations to a fickle economy and the loss of a few corporate sponsors because of financial struggles in the area.

People don’t have the money they have had in recent years, he said.

Forster said fewer people visit retail stores nowadays because so much holiday shopping is done online. Also, people who do visit businesses typically carry very little cash or change.

“Our volunteers are putting it into overdrive,” Buzzard said, adding that bell-ringers are getting creative to make the atmosphere “more festive.” Buzzard said some are dressing up in Santa Claus or elf costumes, and some teenagers are donning superhero outfits.

He said members of the Athol Corps have considered acquiring DipJars, a device that allow people to make donations in adjustable amounts with the swipe of a debit or credit card. More information on the Boston-based company can be found at www.dipjar.com.

Buzzard said Red Kettles can be found at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Orange, Market Basket in Athol and the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Gardner until roughly 7 p.m. on Saturday. He assures people that all the money raised locally stays local, benefiting three community meals programs, multiple children’s programs and a summer day camp, among other programs.

He also said donations can be mailed to the Athol Corps at 107 Ridge Ave.

Forster said texting Kettle17 to 41444 will allow people to donate to their local Salvation Army chapter.