There's been a drop this year in donations to Salvation Army kettles.
For families in need, the Salvation Armys red kettles are as big a part of the holidays as lights, Santa Claus and spending time with loved ones.
But with only a few days left to ring the bells outside local malls and grocery stores, the kettles this year arent collecting what the Salvation Army needs to assist the number of people who need help.
Part of the problem is a time crunch. Many of the local businesses the Salvation Army partners with to host red kettles decided to delay the kettles first appearance until after Thanksgiving, shortening the usual six-week period ending on Christmas Eve to collect donations, said Beverly Peterson, Fox Valley area director of development for the Salvation Army.
"We really didnt get a reason," Peterson said. "Thats just how they wanted to do it this year. We are very grateful to every business that lets us ring."
Compounding the problem is a Salvation Army policy that prohibits collection efforts on Sundays.
The most significant red kettle donation days are Black Friday and Christmas Eve, Peterson said. But Christmas Eve falls on Sunday this year.
As a result, Salvation Army officials are sounding the alarm about falling way below the goals set by local Salvation Army outlets.
The Tri-City Corps of The Salvation Army, in St. Charles, has raised only 69 percent of its $200,000 goal so far. Usually, every location would be at about 90 percent of their goal by this point in the holiday season, Peterson said. And the Tri-City Corps shortfall reflects what most suburban Salvation Army locations are seeing this year, she added.
"Its hitting everybody hard," Peterson said. "People are generous, but I just dont know that they realize where we stand. We really want to be closer to our goals by now, and were just not there."
All red kettle donations stay in the local community where they were made.
The money helps the Salvation Army provide food and toys for those in need during the holidays.
The holiday revenue also represents about half the budget for each location. A shortfall means possibly cutting back on the hours and days local offices are open and available to help people during the rest of the year, Peterson said.
Salvation Army locations provide food, rent and assistance with utility bills. Some sites even help supplement local school music programs that have lost funding for the arts.
"We never want to cut back on direct services to people who need it," Peterson said. "But its looking like well have to go back and revise our budgets and try to find other ways to provide help. The donations are key because we want people to feel like there is always hope when you call the Salvation Army."
The last day to donate to an actual red kettle is Saturday. Kettles with bell ringers always collected more donations than unmanned kettles. Volunteer bell ringers can still sign up at registertoring.com.
There are other ways to donate. The Salvation Army offers a virtual red kettle to donate online and through Facebook at redkettlereason.org.
You can also send a directed donation via text that includes the name of the community in which you want the funds to be used. For example, texting ELGIN to 41444 triggers a donation to Salvation Army efforts in Elgin.