Salvation Army Maj. Ken Perine stood outside of the north Spokane Walmart on Friday armed with a bell to ring and holiday greetings.
Perine, the corps officer for the Salvation Army of Spokane, was on the front lines of the Army’s Red Kettle campaign Friday in response to a callout from Commissioner Kenneth Hodder, the Salvation Army’s national commander. With Friday’s event, Hodder challenged corps officers nationwide to raise more than he did over a four-hour period.
While the effort represented friendly competition, there is more at stake for the Salvation Army of Spokane with the campaign, which – as of Friday – is down nearly $37,000 from last year’s proceeds to date, organizers said.
This year’s $400,000 goal for the campaign, which runs from Nov. 17 to Dec. 24, has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Perine said. The drive started just days after Gov. Jay Inslee announced orders limiting certain indoor business operations across the state through Dec. 14.
“Our community needed us to stay open so we stayed open,” Perine said, “but we understand the need to keep people safe.”
Campaign proceeds will support the Salvation Army’s two local emergency family shelters, after-school program and food bank. If the organization does not raise enough, however, those services could be at risk due to staffing cuts, Perine said.
“Each day that goes by, a little more goes down,” Perine said. “As the two curves separate, it looks like we’re going to be down a lot by the end of the year, but it’s hard to know that exact number.”
The total raised to date includes $17,000 the Salvation Army of Spokane managed during the organization’s Celebrate the Season kickoff event – more than $27,000 off from the event’s $45,000 goal.
Perine said the Salvation Army of Spokane has 150 bell ringers working across 50 different sites in Spokane and Stevens counties. Volunteers are taking precautions due to COVID-19, such as social distancing, wearing masks and disinfecting kettles.
People can also donate online at makingspokanebetter.org.
‘We’re here’Jacob Beck has seen a mix of responses from patrons in the time he’s spent this year as a volunteer bell ringer.
Beck said Friday he has heard from people who thought the Salvation Army was not doing a kettle drive this year due to the pandemic. He has also heard from those who believe the organization is jumping the gun given the situation.
“I just talked to a lady that today was the first time she saw a bell ringer,” Beck said Friday. “Some of the other people I’ve talked to thought that it had been reported that we weren’t going to do it. I said, ‘Nope, we’re here.’ We just had to make a few changes with how we do things.”
For his part, Beck – stationed outside the North Division Street Hobby Lobby in Spokane – said he disinfects his kettle once an hour. Volunteers are not allowed to handle money directly due to the risks involved, he said, so he sometimes has to bring the kettle to people as needed.
Now in his fifth year of bell-ringing for the Salvation Army, the 59-year-old Spokane resident said he has not been concerned for himself amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as he and others he’s seen – including Hobby Lobby employees – follow the appropriate protocol.
“It makes a good day for me,” said Beck, who complemented his mask with a Santa hat and other holiday regalia, “and sometimes, that’s all it takes to make a good day for somebody else.”
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