As at least one area Salvation Army branch begins taking applications for Christmas baskets today, the Salvation Army corps in the Capital Region are finding it harder than in past years to get donations for their food pantries and clothing rooms.
“Charitable funding is down,” said Salvation Army officer Roger Miller at the Saratoga Springs Corps.
He said people who normally make donations have seen their assets reduced by the recession and aren’t giving at all or are giving less.
“The food pantry is pretty well stripped. The shelves are pretty bare,” Miller said. One reason for this is that more people are coming to the food pantry at 27 Woodlawn Ave.
Salvation Army officers at the Saratoga Springs, Schenectady and Amsterdam corps all said they were short on their 2008 holiday bell ringing campaigns.
Miller said this affects what his office can do the following year. In Saratoga Springs, the 2008 bell ringing campaign — in which a seasonal worker or volunteer stands at the red Salvation Army kettle at stores and shopping plazas and seeks donations — had a goal of $130,000 but only collected $103,000.
In Amsterdam, the 2008 campaign had a goal of $27,000 but collected $200 less than this goal, said Capt. Caroline Ramos.
Ramos said she is also seeing more people at the Salvation Army location at 267 Market St. that she staffs with her husband Capt. Juan Ramos.
“We are getting more and more every day,” Ramos said. “People are losing their jobs and their funding is not lasting.”
All the Salvation Army locations are starting to take applications for Christmas assistance food baskets and toys for young children.
For example, the Saratoga Springs Corps will start accepting Christmas assistance applications today through Oct. 30, from 10 a.m. to noon and 3 to 5 p.m. and on Wednesday evenings Oct. 21 and Oct. 28 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Those seeking assistance have to apply in person and provide identification, Social Security cards for all members of the household, proof of income, birth certificates for all children, proof of address and proof of expenses.
The Salvation Army officers in Saratoga Springs and Amsterdam are also seeking more volunteers to ring the kettle bells from November through Christmas. They will hire a limited number of seasonal workers at minimum wage to work the kettles during the daytime.
“We look for volunteers but we don’t get a lot of them,” Miller said.
For the first time, the Salvation Army in Amsterdam will hire three seasonal workers to work at the kettles during the days.
“Last year was really rough,” Caroline Ramos said. “My husband was outside the entire season.”
In Schenectady, Maj. James Guest said volunteer bell ringers have responded in recent years. He said between 15 and 20 community businesses and organizations have people working as bell ringers on weekends and in the evenings.
Guest said his corps hires nine seasonal workers to ring bells during the daytime during the week.
The Schenectady Salvation Army Corps will host its annual Kettle Breakfast on Nov. 11 to recognize the people and organizations that have helped staff the kettles in the past year.
Guest said his food pantry is being used by “a lot of new individuals we haven’t seen before.”
“We have a lot of new faces for breakfast and lunch,” Guest said about the food programs at 222 Lafayette St. The Schenectady Corps feeds about 100 people at breakfast and between 160 and 170 people at lunch, five days a week.
Guest said in the many years he has served the Salvation Army he has seen “ups and downs” in the economy.
“In tough times people may not be able to give as much, but they give something,” Guest said.
“Even in hard times, people still give,” Guest said. He described this as the “spirit of altruism.” “I hope it will carry on,” he said.
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Categories: Schenectady County