One of the commanders of the Niagara Falls Salvation Army is going to do something a little different as part of the organization's Red Kettle fundraising campaign this holiday season.
Major Steve Carroll is going to stand at a Salvation Army Red Kettle for 24 hours straight during a marathon fundraising event scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Niagara Falls.
Carroll said he has been involved in marathon Red Kettle stands at previous assignments in the past. This is his first in the Falls and he said he decided to do it again this year because of the various challenges both the community and the campaign amid the global pandemic.
"I haven't done it in awhile and it reminds me of the context that the people we serve are often in, whether they have lost their heat or they are spending nights out in the cold," Carroll said. "It allows me to relate to that. Sometimes those of us who serve the community forget what people go through."
"This has been a hard year for everyone," Carroll added. "We've served over 150,000 meals worth of food, six times the food served last year. We've doubled rental assistance, and Christmas assistance applications have already exceeded previous years."
The move comes as the Salvation Army is facing high demand for food and assistance from local families who have been dealing with the impact of the global pandemic. It also comes in a year when concerns and constraints related to COVID-19 are expected to tamp down foot traffic at area stores and shopping centers during what is normally the busiest shopping season of the year.
In addition, Carroll noted that the Canadian-U.S. border is expected to remain closed likely through the end of 2020, cutting down on cross-border holiday shoppers and, likely, reducing the volume of people who support the Salvation Army through Red Kettle donations.
"The hope is really that people will see what's going on and see that the need is real and get behind the campaign," Carroll said. "I think that people don't really understand the kettle process and how we raise most of the money on the kettles one dollar bill at a time."
"We've got a lot of mouths to feed and we are doing every physical thing possible to raise the resources necessary to feed them," Carroll added.
Carroll will stand at a Red Kettle in front of the hotel - located at 300 Third St. in the Falls - for one full day starting at noon on Nov. 27. He will be allowed to use the bathroom and take occasional five- to 10-minute breaks. Helpers will stand the kettle when he is not there so it will always be staffed by someone.
Carroll said cosplayers from the Justice League of WNY are scheduled to take part in the event and Mayor Robert Restaino and several members of the city council have agreed to stop by as well. The entire Red Kettle Marathon will be streamed on social media.
"I do expect to get a little sleepy during the wee hours of the morning," Carroll said.
Dan Tighe, the Sheraton Hotel's general manager, said the hotel is looking to help the Salvation Army feed communities hardest hit by COVID-19.
"The Salvation Army relies on this critical fundraiser to aid thousands of individuals and families during the upcoming year," Tighe said. " We want to do all that we can to serve the needs of the community and are gratified to assist."
The Salvation Army is encouraging local businesses and donors to sponsor their own 24-hour kettle kickoff. Dimino's Tops Friendly Markets of Lewiston was the first sponsor of the event with a generous donation of $5,000. A wide variety of sponsorship levels are available with opportunities as low as $100.
"We hope to make up the difference we will lose from the border being closed and having considerably less foot traffic due to COVID-19."
To donate to the cause or for more information about sponsoring a Red Kettle this holiday season, contact the Salvation Army at 716- 283-7697 and ask for Steve. Donations are also being accepted by visiting http://give.salvationarmy.org/rescuechristmasniagarafalls