Salvation Army seeks volunteers for annual campaign

NILES — For many, the metallic ring of a bell inside a supermarket and the sight of a shining red kettle outside of a pharmacy have become as ubiquitous as hot chocolate and Christmas trees during the holiday season.

The bells and kettles belong to the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle fundraiser. Now, to keep that tradition alive, the Niles Salvation Army is asking community members for help.

The Niles Salvation Army, which serves areas in Berrien and Cass counties, is currently seeking volunteers for its annual Red Kettle campaign. The organization is seeking volunteers to sign up for two-hour bell-ringing shifts in Niles, Buchanan, Dowagiac and Berrien Springs. The campaign runs from Nov. 2 through Dec. 24. Some paid positions are being offered as well.

“We’ve not had many people sign up yet, so we are really hoping to get the word out,” said Niles Salvation Army Lt. Joseph Hixenbaugh. “We have more than 3,000 hours of ringing that needs to get done.”

This year, the organization hopes to raise $75,000 from the campaign, which supports roughly 75 percent of the Salvation Army’s annual budget. The organization provides a number of services, including food, rental and Christmas assistance, in addition to several other programs.

The campaign’s progress will be tracked through a Christmas tree set up at the corner of Main and Fifth streets in Niles. For every $10,000 raised, a string of lights will be lit on the tree.

This year, extra precautions are being taken due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to Hixenbaugh, equipment is frequently sanitized, and bell ringers must wear a mask and gloves.

“Our goal this year is to be safe, but still raise the funds,” Hixenbaugh said.

Despite the complications of COVID-19, Hixenbaugh said it is more important now than ever that people volunteer and donate to the campaign — especially as volunteer numbers have been dwindling in recent years.

In 2019, the Niles Salvation Army served roughly 5,000 clients with its services. In 2020, with three months left in the year, the organization has served more than 7,600 clients. With the need for services growing, Hixenbaugh would encourage anyone who is able to donate to this year’s campaign.

“We are getting into our busiest season, so we are expecting an even greater need,” he said. “We have seen a lot of support from the community this year, and we are hoping that the community can come along with us, especially during this critical time of year, to meet the needs of our community.”

To register to volunteer with the Red Kettle campaign, visit registertoring.com.

To donate to the campaign online, visit salvationarmy.org/niles.

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