Salvation Army ringing in holidays with demand up, donations down

As the local corps of the Salvation Army enters this year’s vital holiday fundraising season, demand for its services has increased dramatically this year over last while donations to the charity have gone down.

“We’re seeing about 20 percent more people coming in for services,” said Capt. Ron Wehnau. “And the food that we are getting in isn’t going that far.”

Wehnau said that as a rule, the Salvation Army collects 30 percent of its annual donations during the holiday season. Right now, however, the charity has only five “bell ringers” signed up to raise money for the organization. Some others have applied, but they need approximately 30.

Wehnau said the increased demand on the service comes largely from people who had been living from paycheck to paycheck, but managing to squeak by. As the economy continues to struggle and costs increase, the “working poor” who were able to make it before find themselves needing assistance, “and unfortunately the people that are coming in now are those that have never accessed (aid) and are needing greater amounts,” Wehnau said.

Wehnau illustrated the problem with the story of an elderly woman who got pneumonia and had to pay for antibiotics. She was on a very limited fixed income where she had to account for every penny and couldn’t afford the $30 for the medication. She took money she needed for her electric bill to get the drugs she needed. As time passed she could no long shuffle her money around, and needed assistance from the Salvation Army.

Wehnau said that most charities on the Harbor are having to meet increased demands.

Along with the increased demands, the Salvation Army is coping with decreased contributions. The charity relies on the holiday season to raise as much as 30 percent of their annual budget from the kettle drives. With only five confirmed volunteers, that task may prove difficult. Each year the Salvation Army uses a mixture of volunteers and paid workers to ring bells in front of local stores. The volunteers collect donations for free, and the charity also hires a certain number of unemployed people to ring the bells.