Red Kettle donations

Nancy Parker of Marlin rings the bell Wednesday for The Salvation Army of Waco outside Richland Mall.

Red Kettle donations

Staff photo — Jerry Larson

The nonprofit recognized for ringing bells in front of Red Kettles outside local businesses and big box stores to help the homeless, the hungry and the families in crisis during the holiday season is in need of a little help itself this year.

The Salvation Army of Waco has received almost $20,000 less in donations for its Red Kettle campaign than it got last year, spokeswoman Diana Barrett said Wednesday afternoon. This year’s effort started early last month, and the last full day is Saturday.

Last year, the organization collected almost $155,000 during the campaign. With funding cuts that could hurt the group’s ability to offer certain services next year, hitting this year’s goal of $167,000 is even more important, regional coordinator, Maj. Bradley Caldwell said.

“It is a big deal, and I’m afraid the gap is going to increase before the season concludes based on last year’s figures and the trends we’re seeing this year,” Caldwell said.

Calling the subject “sensitive,” he would not say exactly what funding cuts The Salvation Army of Waco is facing. But it is enough to bring worry about how the organization will offer case work and services aimed at helping emergency clients in 2018, he said.

Money from the Red Kettle campaign often goes toward filling budgetary gaps and addressing whatever need exists, Caldwell said. But because donations have dipped this year, The Salvation Army of Waco is likely to fall well short of its goal in this year’s campaign, he said.

The reason behind the donation shortage is unclear, but Barrett said changes in consumer shopping habits and what she called donor fatigue could be contributing factors.

With more people shopping online and big box retailers offering pick-up services, less people are carrying cash and pocket change to spare, she said.

“As the shopping style changes, so does the traffic at each location as well,” she said.

The concern also stretches to whether donors realize The Salvation Army cannot use money given during hurricane relief efforts earlier this year for any other purpose, Barrett said.

The group saw an outpouring of donations to help families rebuild their lives after Hurricane Harvey struck the Gulf Coast, according to a Salvation Army of Waco press release. But normal operations rely heavily on the kettle campaign, the press release states.

Waco has about 21 Red Kettle locations throughout the city but has not had enough volunteers to be at every spot, Barrett said.

Kettles are set up at Walmart locations, Belk, three Brookshire Brothers grocery stores in the county, Walgreens locations, Richland Mall and several other locations, Caldwell said.

“We’re very grateful for the giving heart of this community, and we understand there are conditions at play,” Caldwell said.

He just wants to remind residents the kettles are out there, he said. The Salvation Army will be collecting through 8 p.m. Saturday, he said.

Community members can also take donations to 4721 W. Waco Drive, send them to P.O. Box 268, Waco, TX, 76710, call 756-7271 or visit www.RedKettleReason.org.

Shelly Conlon has covered K-12 education for the Tribune-Herald since July 2016. Prior to the Tribune-Herald, she was the managing editor for the Waxahachie Daily Light, and an intern for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

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