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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Salvation Army bell ringers are back, this year with masks

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, starting last week almost every grocery store in Spokane has had Salvation Army bell ringers collecting donations.

“There’s no stimulus out there. The extra unemployment is gone and all the waiters and waitresses are coming in for assistance,” said Maj. Ken Perine, executive director and corps officer at Salvation Army Spokane.

“These folks need a hand. They’re not looking for a permanent part of their budget, they just need a hand up, and that’s what we do.”

Salvation Army in Spokane normally raises around $200,000 for its charitable causes during the winter season through bell ringers and a “Celebrate the Season” event. Those donations stay in Spokane, funding the Salvation Army’s local emergency family shelters, afterschool program and a food bank that serves between 2,000 and 2,500 people a month, Perine said.

This year is different, Perine said. With COVID-19 spreading, businesses closing and Gov. Jay Inslee’s orders limiting business capacities, the Salvation Army’s number of donation buckets around Spokane is about half what it usually is.

The Celebrate the Season event, held last year at the Centennial Hotel, was held virtually Friday. Accountants hadn’t reported the donation amounts by Saturday, but the team expected about a fifth of the $50,000 they normally raise.

But bell ringers are still coming out in force. Around 30 kettle sites are collecting donations, Perine said. Volunteers are wearing masks, wiping down their kettles and keeping their distance, Perine said, though he added that the Salvation Army could use more volunteers.

Some businesses that normally participate decided instead of in-person ringing to do it virtually, Perine said. People can also donate online directly through the Salvation Army by going to the Celebrate the Season tab on makingspokanebetter.org.

“This COVID thing is new for all of us, but we still need to have hope,” Perine said. “We all are suffering in some way, somehow. We just want to remind people to have hope rather than fear.”

Maggie Quinlan can be reached at (509) 459-5135 or maggieq@spokesman.com

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