Expecting more need during the holidays, the Salvation Army launched the “Rescue Christmas” campaign to collect donations online and before the holiday season begins.
BROCKTON — This holiday season may look different for shoppers used to seeing the red kettles and volunteers asking for donations for the Salvation Army.
The organization predicts it will see half of the donations it usually does from the kettles as stores close and malls see fewer shoppers due to the coronavirus pandemic. To save its largest fundraiser, the Salvation Army launched a virtual campaign called Rescue Christmas, which encourages people to donate online.
Donations collected from the kettles around the community stay within the community and support social services, like the food pantry, rental assistance and more. The Salvation Army has had to adapt to how it has been able to help people during the pandemic.
“We’re going to have to look at things a little different and just keep going and just keep providing,” said Lt. Stephen Rivero, an officer for the Brockton Corps Community Center.
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Volunteers in the Brockton area are still expected to operate the kettles. They will be trained and follow COVID-19 guidelines, including wearing personal protective equipment and disinfecting the kettle between donations, he said.
Up to four times the number of clients have requested help from the Salvation Army in Brockton during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rivero said. In September, 100 new households have sought assistance at the food pantry, a lot of whom have never been to a pantry before, he added.
With increased requests for service since the pandemic, the Salvation Army estimates that it could serve up to 155 percent more people in Massachusetts in 2020.
The Massachusetts Division of Salvation Army raised $2.5 million dollars with the red kettle campaign in 2019, according to the organization, but this year there is concern that there will be enough money for local branches to meet service demands.
During the holiday season, the Salvation Army provides families with meals so that they can have a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. It also gives toys, books and clothes to families with children.
Rivero said the Brockton Corps is looking at options to get people and local companies to donate food or gifts this holiday season. Volunteers will also be well needed during the holidays because more will be going on.
The Salvation Army runs an angel tree program in which people can buy toys local children request. The trees with tags listing the gifts would be placed in stores or offices.
Because not all have returned to work in person, Rivero said the Salvation Army will need to find a workaround, like reaching out to managers to get the word out to their employees.
“We want to have this connection between the people who are helping and the children who are receiving those gifts,” he said. “We want them to know it’s going to an actual kid.”
Rivero, who grew up in Chicago, wants to continue this service the Salvation Army provides because when he was a child, he received gifts from the organization.
The Salvation Army also has thrift stores in Brockton, Hanover and Taunton that support an adult drug and alcohol rehabilitation center for men that the organization runs.
When the stores closed for a few a few months, the Brockton Adult Rehabilitation Center lost its sole funding sources and had to rely on reserves and some help from the organization’s headquarters, said Capt. Mark Ferreira, administrator of the center.
The center has 50 beds and provides services like counseling and work therapy free of cost. Despite the pandemic, participants have been able to complete the rehabilitation program and get jobs, he said.
The thrift stores that fund the rehab center play another role in the community.
With tight budgets during the pandemic, the thrift stores provide affordable clothing, furniture and home goods from the stores for families.
At the store, customers will see safety measures that are common in the retail setting, including one-way aisles, closed fitting rooms, modified hours and shields at the checkout area, he said.
Instead of taking donations inside, the stores have a truck outside to collect them. It’s more work to process donations because everything has to be quarantined for at least 24 hours before processing, but Ferreira said the Salvation Army is thrilled to receive them.
“The donations go a long way,” he said.
People have supplied donations at a larger volume than the local stores have ever seen, Ferreira said.
Spring is a common time that people donate, he said, but the end of the year is a bigger push because people want to make room for new stuff or get a tax deduction for making a donation.
Looking ahead to the holidays, Ferreira and Rivero hope that people will donate money, food, gifts and other goods so that the Salivation Army can provide support in the community.
“We’re seeing people who have never been in this situation and don’t know what the future holds for them,” Rivero said. “We want to be there for them.”
Staff writer Mina Corpuz can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @mlcorpuz.
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