KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Salvation Army is in the middle of its biggest fundraiser of the year with the annual Kettle Program, but, donations are behind by nearly $200,000.
Despite those numbers, the nonprofit’s leaders say they never give up or lose hope and are confident they’ll meet their financial goal.
The local Salvation Army covers a lot of territory – six East Tennessee counties. It provides help to low-income families through emergency financial assistance, short-term transitional housing for those experiencing homelessness, shelters for women — and Christmas for children.
Now, there’s a big need for your help.
It’s a familiar sound at this time of the year – the iconic red kettle of the Salvation Army and bell ringers are part of the Christmas scene.
The money donated goes to aid needy families, to help seniors, and those experiencing homelessness.
“We have a big goal this year of $333,000. To date, we have collected around $140,000,” says Captain Dan Nelson, Salvation Army. “We need in these last couple of weeks $190,000.”
Bell ringers needed
To help close the financial gap, more bell ringers are needed.
There are 48 bell ringing stations but only half have volunteers at the sites.
“Of those 48 locations we have 24 volunteers out there which is wonderful, we are always so grateful to have volunteer bell ringers out there. But we can always have more,” Nelson said.
If you want to volunteer to be a bell ringer, call the Salvation Army locations in Knoxville Maryville, Oak Ridge and LaFollette.
At Salvation Army headquarters in Knoxville, they’re getting ready for the big Angel Tree program.
For 40 years through donations, people have filled big trucks with gifts for kids throughout the area. Donations made from Sunday school classes from school groups, companies , and individuals
“There are more than 200 bikes coming in this year, that’s incredible…all brand new. Everything coming into Angel tree is brand new,” Nelson said.
Inside the Salvation Army’s gym, Santa’s Elves have been working since last week organizing more than 1,100 individual gifts for needy kids whose parents signed up their children so they can have Christmas.
“So here we are amongst all those presents coming in and those gifts will be given December 16 and 17, next Monday and Tuesday, and there will be a lot of smiles on a lot of faces,” Nelson said.
Smiles will be spread to seniors too through the Silver Bells program for those over 65. The gifts inside the gym are part of the wide range of assistance provided by the Salvation Army.
Those presents for seniors through the Silver Bells program will be handed out on Friday, Dec. 20.
Major Sarah Nelson helps lead the Knoxville region.
“My husband and I as Area Commanders we also are ordained ministers. And we hold Sunday services. We worship every Sunday just like a normal church. We do everything from feeding daily, 300 people, three times a day. And we provide housing. We provide after school activities for school aged children,” Sarah Nelson said.
More ways to give to the red kettle
Bell ringing has been part of the Salvation Army for nearly 130 years. And donations – whatever the amount, are welcomed.
Volunteer Dawn Henry says it’s been on her heart to donate since she was young.
“Since I was a tiny child, I was like, ‘let’s put some money in the bucket,'” she said.
At many kettle locations, it is easy to donate through Apple Pay or Google Pay.
“So if you are an Apple Pay user, you can just get your camera out, you scan the QR Code,” Nelson said. “You can select the amount of money that you would like to give. Click that, submit and you have sent your gift to the Salvation Army.”
There is always something going on at the Salvation Army. These next days approaching Christmas will be busier than ever.
How to volunteer with The Salvation Army
For more information about volunteering, click here