You’ll still hear The Salvation Army’s signature bell ringers this year. There will just be fewer of them, and those who are participating are taking extra precautions.
Perhaps you’ve already heard them; bell ringers took to their posts beside bright red kettles throughout Lancaster County beginning Nov. 18, collecting money for the organization’s various aid programs. Because of the pandemic, The Salvation Army has fewer volunteers and participating locations.
It’s just one of the many challenges the organization faces this Christmas. The coronavirus means nonprofit organization risks being unable to raise funds for those who need help in Lancaster County. The Red Kettle Campaign is the organization’s largest annual fundraising event.
“We need the community’s help more than ever this year to help us rescue Christmas for so many in need,” says Maj. Dean Satterlee, Lancaster commanding officer.
To meet this year’s staggering number of people facing hardship, The Salvation Army has launched Rescue Christmas. The fundraising effort introduces the first virtual Red Kettle Campaign, which kicked off Nov. 17 at the corps’ 131 S. Queen St. location and was live-streamed on The Salvation Army’s Facebook page.
Volunteers from civic groups, businesses and others man their kettles Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The ringers adhere to CDC guidelines, including frequent temperature checks, wearing masks and gloves, practicing social distancing from donors, having hand sanitizers available, and using disinfectant wipes continually to clean kettles and bells.
Store closings also resulted in fewer locations for bell ringers to set up this year. But here are several places where you’ll find Salvation Army bell-ringers in Lancaster County this year: Walmart stores; Bomberger’s Store, Hobby Lobby, Big Lots, JC Penney, Shady Maple Farm Market, Oregon Dairy, Fulton Bank at Penn Square, John Herr’s Village Market and Weaver Nut Co.
Last year the Red Kettle Campaign raised $169,930, exceeding its goal of $165,000. This year’s goal remains at $165,000.
“Once again we are counting on the generosity of our community this Christmas season,” says Satterlee. The organization is preparing to serve over 6,000 individuals in the Lancaster area with food, toys and winter wear.
From March through October this year, Lt. Michael Buzzard, assistant commanding officer, says, The Salvation Army served 175,368 meals to 12,685 individuals in the county —almost 10 times the meals served in 2019, not counting holiday food distribution. With many people at risk of eviction before the end of the year, financial help is needed for rent or mortgage payments. Over $25,000 already has been distributed for rent and utility aid, more than double the amount given for all of 2019. The Salvation Army’s program Coats for Kids distributed 1,300 coats, 300 more than same time last year.
Giving hope and help to those in need has been the mission of The Salvation Army for more than a century. “While we know it will be a challenge to meet this year’s goal, we have faith in the Lancaster community to help us,” Buzzard says.
Honorary First Donor
At least one young Lancaster resident is proving Buzzard right.
Nine-year-old Chase Schattgen, was this year’s honorary first donor, marking the start of the kettle drive campaign locally.
For Chase, making sure everyone has food to eat is a year-round goal. His concern began at age 4 while grocery shopping with his mother, Kristen, for a food drive at his school, Montessori Academy of Lancaster. It made him think: if everyone donated food, the problem of hunger could be solved.
“Why shouldn’t everyone have enough to eat?” Chase says. “It’s not fair.”
His journey helping the hungry began by collecting food from family and friends for The Salvation Army Food Pantry. Since then, he’s delivered thousands of pounds of food and over $1,000 to the pantry.
“We researched organizations, and chose The Salvation Army because of its reputation for helping people nationwide and in the Lancaster community,” Kristen says.
At age 6, Chase, his mother and father, Kyle, started the Chasing Down Hunger nonprofit. Their mission: “To gather food for many, through a communitywide project of all ages and led by the guidance of Chase’s servant and loving heart.” The nonprofit has a Facebook page and website, chasingdownhunger.com. The Salvation Army began a partnership with the nonprofit two years ago.
The Nitrauer Elementary School third grader collects food donations from grocery stores and individuals. Each spring Chasing Down Hunger has red kettles at businesses and special events held at parks. Chase says there’s one important reason people should donate to the Red Kettle Campaign: “No one should go to bed hungry.”