DENVER -- The Salvation Army is nearing the end of its annual Red Kettle Campaign, but this year fewer people appear to be answering the bell.
Fewer bell ringers and a shortened campaign at one major grocery chain, have helped contribute to a $140,000 shortfall in the Denver Metro area.
“This is the first time in four years, since I’ve been here, that we’ve been down this much,” said Salvation Army Divisional Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Dan Starrett.
Salvation Army bell ringer Don Bustamante, is among the shrinking crew of people working Red Kettle shifts this year.
“I believe in the cause and that’s why I do it,” Bustamante said. “Most worthwhile thing I do all year.”
When the Salvation Army runs out of volunteers for the Red Kettle Campaign; they pay people, including Bustamante, to fill in the gaps, but this year they’re still having trouble finding enough people to ring the bells.
The Salvation Army also saw it’s campaign cut from five weeks to just two at a major grocery chain, following a recent merger.
“That’s a significant loss of funds and we have not been able to make it up this year,” Starrett said. “We thought we could. We have not been able to.”
This despite the fact that, at some Red Kettle locations, it’s easier to give than ever. The Salvation Army is testing 10 card readers in the Denver area. A quick swipe of a card will generate a $2 donation in seconds, meaning a lack of cash isn’t an excuse.
“You either want to give or you don’t. It’s that simple,” Bustamante said. “I don’t know if it’s generosity or the pinch people are feeling financially.”
Thanks to the Season of Sharing Toy Drive, and the generous donations of Fox31 viewers, the Salvation Army is still likely to meet families’ needs for Christmas gifts.
“We think we’re going to make it,” Starrett said. “We’ve got one more day to give out toys and we think we’re going to be really close there.”
But Starrett says they depend on the Red Kettle Campaign all year to help shelter and feed at least 16-hundred people a night.
Though the bell ringing and giving is down, the need is higher than ever in Denver.
“Look, we’re never going to stop helping people,” Starrett said. “But the demand continues to keep growing and so we’ve got to find more and more ways to help people.”
If you are a family in need of help for Christmas, the Salvation Army will be hosting a lunch and toy give-away for parents and kids on Christmas Eve.
The event is held at the Colorado Convention Center 11:30 a.m. to 1p.m. on Christmas Eve. Following the free lunch, Santa will be handing out toys… for as long as they last.