Salvation Army looks to ‘rescue Christmas’ with early donation efforts

  • Due to the lasting COVID-19 pandemic, the Salvation Army expects to have fewer red kettles out this holiday season, which could affect the national fundraising campaign while requests for services are at an all-time high. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Last year, roughly $2.5 million was raised in Massachusetts through the Red Kettle Campaign, with $126 million raised nationally. Due to the closure of retail stores, and the fact that consumers are carrying less cash and coins, the Salvation Army could see a 50 percent decrease in money raised nationally. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • To help ensure the safety of bell ringers, donors and partners, the Salvation Army has implemented more online fundraising, and will follow nationally mandated safety protocols when in-person donation collections begin in November. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Emily and Paul Leslie are the new ministers at the Salvation Army on Chapman Street in Greenfield. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 9/28/2020 4:29:00 PM

For the first time in 130 years, the Salvation Army is starting its national holiday fundraising campaign early to help “rescue Christmas.”

Massachusetts Director of Communications Heather MacFarlane said the Salvation Army expects the holiday season to look different this year for many families amid the pandemic, and the organization expects to see fewer iconic red kettles out than usual come November and December. This could affect the national fundraising campaign while requests for services are at an all-time high.

The Salvation Army provided Christmas assistance to more than 400,000 people in Massachusetts last year. Based on the increase in services seen in response to the pandemic, MacFarlane said the organization could serve up to 155 percent more people in 2020. Christmas assistance includes providing residents with shelter or helping them put food on the table, pay bills or buy gifts.

For Christmas assistance, the Greenfield Salvation Army branch helps residents from all Franklin County towns except New Salem and Orange. These towns, as well as Athol, are covered by the Salvation Army’s Athol branch.

“Throughout COVID-19, the Salvation Army has continued to meet the growing needs of the commonwealth and our neighbors in need in Greenfield and beyond,” MacFarlane said. “As we anticipate the need for holiday, utility, food and other assistance to increase, this holiday season will be even more critical.”

Last year, roughly $2.5 million was raised in Massachusetts through the Red Kettle Campaign, with $126 million raised nationally. Due to the closure of retail stores, and the fact that consumers are carrying less cash and coins, MacFarlane said the Salvation Army could see a 50 percent decrease in money raised nationally.

To help ensure the safety of bell ringers, donors and partners, the Salvation Army has implemented more online fundraising, and will follow nationally mandated safety protocols when in-person donation collections begin in November.

Lt. Paul Leslie, who recently took over as minister of the Greenfield Salvation Army with his wife, Emily, said there are typically five kettles scattered across Greenfield, but this year there may only be two or three due to COVID-19 limitations. Starting in mid-October, participating businesses will have “countertop kettles” with a QR code for a digital donation option. Businesses can sign up to host a countertop kettle by contacting the Greenfield Salvation Army at 413-773-3154.

“The great thing about financial contributions is we are able to put that toward wherever the need is greatest — whether that’s food, or toys, or for clothing,” Leslie said.

Since March, the Salvation Army Massachusetts Division has provided more than 12 million meals to residents in need. MacFarlane said the best way to ensure vital services continue is to enlist in “Love’s Army,” providing a monthly donation of $25.

The Salvation Army is also making it safer and simpler to donate. In addition to cash donations, patrons may donate digitally through Apple Pay or Google Pay at any red kettle in Massachusetts.

At home, they can ask their Amazon Alexa device to donate by saying, “Alexa, donate to the Salvation Army,” and then specifying the amount. A text-to-donate option is available by texting “RescueChristmas” to 41444. Donations through text will benefit a Salvation Army branch that serves the area code of the sending phone number.

Residents can also get involved in the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program, which helps ensure children have toys and clothes under their Christmas trees. Leslie said the local corps serves roughly 170 families in the Greenfield area each year through the Angel Tree Program, but this year its goal is to serve 250.

“The more support the community is able to offer, the more we’ll be able to help fulfill that anticipated, increased need,” Leslie said.

For those who are seeking assistance from the Greenfield Salvation Army, registration will run Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., through Oct. 23. Those looking to donate may contact the local corps for more information, or stop by the Greenfield Cooperative Bank, People’s United Bank and other participating businesses to pick up tags for donation items starting Nov. 1.

To contact the Greenfield Salvation Army, call 413-773-3154. To contact the Athol Salvation Army, call 978-249-8111.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.



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