Salvation Army red kettle donations down this year amid bell ringer shortage

Morning In America

 ROGERS, Ark. (NewsNation Now) — It’s a tradition that’s as normal as seeing holiday lights around town — the bells of the Salvation Army ringing at grocery stores, drug stores and shopping malls.

Those little red kettles are a major way the Salvation Army keeps its charities going, but during unprecedented times, a bell ringer shortage is impacting donations, which have declined this year.

The Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign began in 1891 with one kettle. Now there are bells ringing in nearly every city in the United States, yet 2021 has brought new challenges. The bells are still clanging, but donations to the campaign have gotten quieter.

Jack Ignatowicz is a bell ringer at the Bel Air in the Pocket area of Sacramento.

“Our club has been doing this at this location for about the last 10 years,” Ignatowicz said. “It’s kind of our tradition.”

The red kettle campaign is not only the most visible Salvation Army drive, it’s also the nonprofit’s biggest donation drive of the year.

Salvation Army Major Rio Ray said donations aren’t coming in at the same rate they’ve seen the past few years. 

“There are a lot of reasons behind it,” Ray explained. “So COVID, we had less people out but people were being more generous, so it kind of balanced itself out. This year, I think there is a lot of fear.”

The Salvation Army has gotten creative and turned to cardboard cutouts with no bells and just a kettle

If you’re unable to make it to one of your local Salvation Army kettles, you can donate or volunteer through the options listed below:

  • Visit and sign up to volunteer at a red kettle or distribute Angel Tree gifts to children in need.
  • Provide holiday gifts to children of local families in need through The Salvation Army Angel Tree or Adopt A Family program. Please contact your local Salvation Army.
  • Visit to purchase toys and clothing.
  • Donate any amount by texting “KETTLES” to 51555

NewsNation affiliate KTXL contributed to this report.

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