As Christmas approaches, the ringing of bells and clinking of coins can be heard as the Salvation Army places red kettles at local supermarkets and department stores around the nation. These charity collectors, some paid workers and some volunteering out of good spirit, receive positive and negative responses from the public.
While some believe that the red kettles are a friendly reminder to be generous and thoughtful during the winter season, others feel they are an unwelcome nuisance. Salvation Army bell ringers across the country are facing restrictions this holiday season from the stores they have previously been allowed to use as donation sites and from citizens themselves.
Stores and businesses in several cities are reducing the number of weeks before Christmas that the Salvation Army can set up the red kettle donation sites. They are asking that the collectors wait until one week prior to the holiday to start collecting rather than the usual six weeks. In other cities such as Colorado Springs, Colo. and at certain businesses such as Target, bell ringers have been denied entirely. A new law in the form of a no-panhandling ordinance passed on Nov. 6 in Colorado Springs restricts any method of money collection, including the Salvation Army’s red kettles.
Further, individuals have filed complaints and even phoned the authorities about the constant ringing of bells. New Hampshire resident and store owner Sarah Hamilton-Parker has endured the incessant ringing for the past four years and insists that it disrupts her customers’ day as much as her own. The authorities recognized her concern, but could do little to remedy the problem, as “it’s something the city has given permission for,” Police Captain Mike Schwartz said, according to the Daily Mail.
Areas that still allow bell ringers to collect donations may be dangerous as well. Charity collectors often have hefty amounts of cash in their bucket by the end of a shift, giving some individuals enough incentive to take it.
A Salvation Army employee was robbed in front of a Sears in Columbus, Ga. last winter when a car pulled up to the sidewalk alongside the entrance to the store and said that they wanted to make a donation. The employee took the Salvation Army bucket to the driver’s side of the vehicle, at which time the driver pulled a silver handgun, pointed it at the employee and demanded the bucket. No suspects were apprehended.
Another incident occurred in Charlottesville, Va. when a masked robber jumped out of a vehicle, pushed the Salvation Army bell ringer to the ground and grabbed the bucket as he jumped back into the car. The bell ringer sustained only minor injuries and the Salvation Army reassured people that someone would be back the next day to continue collecting donations.
Some common stores that have said they will continue to support the Salvation Army include corporations such as Wal-Mart, Walgreens and JCPenneys. This holiday season, the Salvation Army will continue to collect donations that help clothe and feed those in need with a goal of raising $215,000.