By Michele DeLuca firstname.lastname@example.org
Niagara Gazette — The weather outside has been frightful for the Salvation Army bell ringers this year.
Snow and freezing temperatures have not only challenged those who stand by the red kettles at area stores, but they’ve also reduced the number of shoppers who donate their bills and coins.
While a regional spokesperson blames the weather for a lower than usual amount collected this holiday season, the situation has become dire in Niagara Falls.
“There are only six days left,” said Major Corinne Hayes of the Salvation Army of Niagara Falls. “If someone doesn’t put in an extremely generous donation, chances are slim to none that we will hit our goal for this year.”
The Salvation Army units throughout upstate New York have felt the same downturn in kettle donations, according to a spokesperson.
“With the heavy storms a lot of the corps couldn’t get the kettles out,” said Christine Gray, director of communications for the Empire Division of the Salvation Army. “Also, people aren’t coming out to shop mostly because of the weather and the snow.”
The 25 or so Niagara Falls bell ringers, located at nine area stores including Tops Markets, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Hobby Lobby and Kmart, have collected about $41,000 so far.
The goal is $65,000, and if the buckets do not yield enough funds by the time the campaign ends at Christmas, support for those in need will suffer, Hayes said.
“The money raised not only provides food and toys for Christmas,” she said, “but it is also a major part of our budget.”
Proceeds from the holiday bucket collections also fund the food pantry, open Monday through Friday throughout the year at the Salvation Army’s location at 7018 Buffalo Ave. City residents struggling with rent or utility bills can also get help, when funds allow, Hayes said. In addition, the location is home for a variety of adult and children’s programs as well as a small church congregation of about 70 members.
Hayes said the Buffalo Avenue location does not receive financial assistance from the Salvation Army store on Niagara Falls Boulevard. The store is operated by the army’s Buffalo-based rehabilitation program and all proceeds from the store go to assist those who are struggling to heal from addictions.
The kettles fund the bulk of the service work of the Niagara Falls Salvation Army, Hayes explained, and she is hoping to get the word out that donations are low this season, as she believes there are people in the community who will step up and provide help.
“There are people out there who, if they knew, would put more in the buckets,” she said. “Or someone out there may have the capability of writing a very generous check. That’s why I want people to know.”