COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- For the second straight year, Salvation Army officials face the challenge of finding enough volunteers to collect donations during the agency's largest fundraising campaign of the year.
Officials said that as the annual Red Kettle Kickoff begins Friday, the number of volunteers who stand outside storefronts and ring bells to gather donations in red kettles is down 30% -- around the same amount as last year.
That's because last year, during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency said that fewer volunteers were willing to perform kettle duty and many people were social distancing by stopping at kettles less often.
However, despite the lack of volunteers last year, officials said that they still -- barely -- met their goal of $550,000 because of an increase in online donations.
Officials hope for the same success this season with a bigger goal of $700,000.
The pandemic has also increased the need for assistance to families, children, the homeless, the elderly and veterans, the agency said; much of the need is for food and help paying rent.
Because of the growing need, officials said that they have expanded their programs at a homeless shelter, food pantry and housing units and have made the expanded services a regular part of their $6 million annual budget.
The agency said that 60% of the donations it receives are given during the holiday campaign between mid-November and Christmas Eve.
More than 200 people attended a red kettle kickoff luncheon Thursday at the Antlers Hotel; some of the attendees are donors who have already given $50,000 to the current campaign.
The red kettle campaign has been a holiday tradition for the agency since it began in 1865, and officials said that the tradition is honored in the Christmas song Silver Bells.
For more information about volunteering and donations, visit: http://tsacs.org.