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Salvation Army kettles aren’t boiling with cash donations

December 21, 2018

Salvation Army kettles aren’t boiling with cash donations

CLEVELAND, Ohio – For the past 127 years people have dropped everything from gold teeth to diamond rings to rare coins and checks ranging upwards of $500,000 into those ubiquitous Salvation Army red kettles that sprout like holiday poinsettias at this time of year.

In recent years, the charity’s Christmas Kettle campaign in Greater Cleveland has seen a decreasing type of donation – cash.

Fewer people carrying cash, store closings and more people opting to shop online (rather than at local stores with kettle locations) are challenges facing the kettle campaign this year, according to Maj. Thomas Applin, divisional secretary for the Salvation Army of Greater Cleveland.

Applin said about 55 percent of the $743,000 goal set this year for the kettle campaign has been raised. The kettle collections end on Christmas Eve.

Money raised by the kettle campaign helps support Salvation Army efforts in Cuyahoga County including rent and utility aid, food assistance, and life-skills programs designed to break the cycle of poverty and addiction.

This year’s goal is “higher than it has ever been in the past, because that’s what we need in order to keep our programs going,” Applin said.

If the goal isn’t met, program cuts would be a last resort, according to Applin.

A more immediate challenge would be raising funds once Christmas is past. People have come to associate the holidays with red kettles, and hence, the Salvation Army, according to Applin.

“In November and December, people are thinking about us more because of the holiday season,” he said. “Once you get past that, it becomes that much more difficult to get the community to support us.”

This year there are 150 Salvation Army workers ringing the kettle bell at locations including Walmart, Discount Drug Mart, Dave’s Markets, Walgreens and several shopping malls. Store closings and renovations, however, have meant that the Salvation Army has “probably had less access to the public than ever in the past,” Applin said.

The challenge posed by an increasingly cashless society increases every year, he also noted.

Nationally, the number of debit cards in circulation has grown from 434 million in 2007 to 680 million in 2016, according to the WalletHub Statistics Center, based on SEC filings.

“It gets worse every year. Less and less people have cash with them,” Applin said. “The last 10-12 years really have been more difficult than ever before.

“It’s not that people don’t want to give,” he added. “They’re just not carrying cash.”

Nationally, the Salvation Army has started a pilot project in four markets – Seattle, Dallas/Fort Worth, New York City and Kansas City – in which kettles are equipped with a means of making donations with a phone equipped with Apple Pay or Google Pay by reading a QR code on the kettle sign.

There are also some kettles that have card terminals for donations.

“We’re becoming a cashless society,” commented Joseph Cohen, communications manager. “It’s all part of the digital revolution, and we’re trying to stay ahead of the curve.”

Cohen confirmed that other areas of the country have also been impacted by the factors cited by Applin in terms of fewer potential donors carrying cash, more online shopping and store closures.

He said the final results of this year’s kettle campaign won’t be known until January when the donations are tallied.

However, he also noted that “a really good upside to the way that shopping has evolved is that we have seen, so far, about a 25 percent increase in digital online fund-raising. That will be a help.”

So, “it is a little bit of give and take,” he added.

If you can’t beat it, join it, so to speak, as Applin is encouraging people to consider making an electronic or non-kettle gift to the Salvation Army.

He offered the following options:

· Text ClevelandOH to 41444 to make a smart phone donation.

· Go online at SalvationArmyOhio.org.

· Call 1-800-Sal-Army.

· Mail donations to: The Salvation Army, 2507 East 22nd St., Cleveland, OH 44115.

· Set up a virtual fund-raising campaign at www.fundraiseforgood.org.

The kettle campaign is part of the local Salvation Army’s overall holiday fund-raising effort which runs through the end of January, with a $2 million goal.

But it’s the kettles that come with the color, and it’s much more than red.

The effort started in 1891 when Salvation Army Capt. Joseph McFee was trying to figure out a way to raise money to feed a thousand of San Francisco’s poorest residents on Christmas Day.

He remembered his sailing days in England when a large iron kettle was placed at a landing where the boats came in, and passers-by could toss in a coin to aid the poor. So he placed a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing with a sign that read “Keep the pot boiling,” and enough cash was raised for the Christmas dinner.

The concept spread to Boston six years later, then New York and the rest of the nation.

For the past 22 years the kettle campaign has been a regular feature of the Dallas Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day football game.

Highlights of this promotion in which an oversized kettle is placed just off the playing field include the Cowboys’ running back Ezekiel Elliott jumping into the kettle after scoring a touchdown in 2016, and dropping a touchdown-scoring teammate into the pot this year.

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