The Salvation Army says it’s struggling to find bell ringers to staff the number of red kettle stands it would like to have this holiday season.
“We all grew up with it,” bell ringer Charley Bloom said of the distinctive sound of Salvation Army bells ringing outside stores at Christmastime.
The Salvation Army of Greater Burlington, which serves northwestern Vermont, says it has a shortage of ringers. The charitable religious organization explained the folks it pays to staff its kettles are as hard to come by as workers in many other fields these days.
“The disease came along— it disrupted everything,” Bloom said of COVID-19 and subsequent variants.
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Volunteers seem in short supply, too, the charity said Wednesday in an interview with NECN & NBC10 Boston. COVID also apparently reset some of their patterns.
“This year, we have definitely felt that shortage,” lamented Lt. Caitlin Lyle of the Salvation Army of Greater Burlington.
Lyle said the chapter has just six ringers this year, noting it would like to have two or three times as many.
“We are doing pretty amazing with the group that we have,” Lyle said.
The lieutenant told NECN & NBC10 Boston that despite the challenge, caring communities keep coming through. Donors have put the chapter about halfway to its $50,000 seasonal fundraising goal, with still two weeks to go in the campaign, Lyle said.
“I appreciate Charley for being out here so much,” red kettle donor Chris Santee said of Bloom’s steady bell ringing Wednesday outside of the Walmart in St. Albans. “It’s cold, but it’s such a great cause.”
Cash collected funds meal services, a food pantry, emergency aid, and even toy distribution for children of disadvantaged neighbors, Lyle said.
“The bell ringers that we have, they’re resilient,” added Lyle. “They’re motivated. They want to keep going, they want to raise the funds for the community.”
Already, plans are in the works for a robust ringer recruitment push next year, Lyle noted. Charley Bloom will likely be back, sounding the Salvation Army’s distinctive plea for help in combating poverty. “They’re helping with the problems we’re having in America,” Bloom said, before thanking a woman who deposited several dollars in his kettle.