The Salvation Army is seeing an increased demand for services, and bell ringers are desperately needed this holiday season to help raise money.
“We need to get as many bell ringers as possible due to dramatic increases in requests for assistance,” said Maj. James Guest, director of the Schenectady Salvation Army.
With the slowing economy, greater numbers of individuals and families have been coming to the Salvation Army asking for food, rent, utilities assistance, prescriptions and emergency housing.
“We need groups and individuals to help raise the funds necessary to assist these families in need,” Guest said.
The 18th annual Salvation Army Christmas Kettle breakfast is set for 8:30 a.m. today at the Glen Sanders Mansion to highlight an appeal for volunteers to help raise $100,000 this year. Awards at today’s breakfast will go to groups that raised the most in kettles last year, including Beukendaal George Hope Chapter 271, Order of the Eastern Star, the Rotary Club of Schenectady and the GE Elfuns.
Last year, the Salvation Army in Schenectady raised $125,000, exceeding its goal of $90,000. It helped about 425 families during the holidays and the number is expected to exceed 500 this year.
The increase in requests means the Salvation Army has to buy more food to sustain food pantry and daily feeding programs, according to Guest, who said that it’s trying to receive in-kind donations to supplement food requests.
It has already used food that was going to go into Christmas baskets.
The need for bell ringers is being felt all over the region. “There will be a huge demand this year,” said Salvation Army Development Director Felix Perez in Albany.
Next week, the Salvation Army in Albany will start to staff 40 red kettle locations. About 1,920 hours have to be staffed.
The bell ringers will be out in force eight hours a day through Dec. 24. “We don’t ring on Sunday. We observe the Sabbath,” said Perez.
The appeal for volunteers is being made a little early this year after a lackluster ’07 holiday season. There weren’t enough bell ringers, which caused a major drop in donations.
“We weren’t able to man as many sites with volunteers. The revenues we lost because of the lack of bell ringers was about $200,000 from the previous year,” he said.
Perez said the Albany Salvation Army will try to raise $400,000 this year.
The organization is turning to schools and universities that may know of individuals who must fill community service requirements, as well as Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Rotary units and other associations.
The Masons have helped for three years and filled 20 days of bell ringing, said Perez.
Perez said individuals are welcome to volunteer with a friend, family member or child if that makes it easier, or more appealing.
“It’s a nice thing to see when someone comes with their child. They are teaching their child about people in need and it’s a lesson in giving back.”