There’s something so comforting about seeing those bell ringers standing outside our favorite department stores, ringing their bell, raising money for those less fortunate in our communities. It lets us know humanity is still a part of the human condition and it reminds us, too, that there are still people who have good intentions in their hearts and minds and who simply want to do good. Even if doing good means standing outside in the elements, ringing their bells, and raising money for someone other than themselves. It’s a tradition and it’s as important to us, as adults, as being the lucky kid whose mom hands her the folded bills to drop into the kettle. Now, though, it looks like the red kettle has gone high tech for good.
You may recall the Salvation Army had tried, in limited markets, the option of allowing shoppers to use their credit cards to make their donations versus the dropping cash into the kettles. It proved quite successful and now, they’re expanding their modern efforts to at least three more markets. It’s all about ensuring convenience so that people will continue to donate.
“It’s been in the making for a little more than a year now,” Captain James Kisser said.
We had to adjust to the times. More people are carrying plastic than ever before.
The day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, the Salvation Army will be rolling out its new high-tech kettles. The swipe machines will be attached to kettle tripods at Wal Mart Stores and Sam’s Clubs. In Pennsylvania, the digital kettles will be located in Dickson City and Scranton.
As one spokesperson pointed out,
It has become much more difficult to collect change and bills from shoppers because they aren’t carrying cash anymore. We’ve had to adjust. This is pretty cutting-edge technology.
The donations because fewer of us are carrying cash have been on the decrease, says the spokesperson.
Wondering if it’s safe? You should know it’s as safe as going to your ATM. Using an anti-theft recoiler process, the wireless credit card swipe machine are the fastest in the industry, the most secure as well as the most reliable.
Acknowledging that people may wonder about the safety, the agency says no information at all is ever stored on the device and all funds are transferred via direct deposit, ensuring both the Salvation Army and the donors are protected. Donors also receive a receipt of their donation immediately. Kisser said,
It’s just like when ATMs first came out, and there was some concern regarding them. It will take time, but eventually, I think it will be accepted by everyone.
The Red Kettle program has a rich history that began in 1891. Then-Captain of the Salvation Army, Joseph McFee saw so many homeless and poor people in the San Francisco area, that he had to do something to at least ensure they didn’t go hungry. He decided that he would provide a Christmas meal to those poverty stricken citizens. His challenge was to find a way to finance this meal. After praying about it, he remembered being in England during his time in the military. There was a kettle, referred to as Simpson’s Pot, which was used to catch coins that people would toss with the goal of feeding that area’s poorest. The very next day, he placed a pot, similar to the one he saw in England, at the Oakland Ferry Landing near Market Street. His sign was simple: Keep the pot boiling. Before long, he’d raised enough money to feed the city’s hungry residents. Within six short years, the program had spread to the east coast and a joint, nationwide effort resulted in 150,000 meals being provided to the needy across the country. In 1901, New York City provided the necessary funds for a sit down dinner in Madison Square Garden. Fast forward to current day and the Salvation Army provides more than 4.5 million people during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. It’s now a global effort and one Captain McFee would be proud of.
Now, the Salvation Army is facing its biggest demands in many years. With poor economic times, unemployment and other financial struggles, local branches are faced with needs that total $200,000 or more to sustain their respective programs. Kisser explains,
When you boil that down, that’s about $5,000 a day. We know it’s an ambitious goal, but with turkey prices up 25 percent and the county’s high unemployment rate, more families are relying on us.
I want to make sure every child has a toy and every family is fed. This new technology gives us a better chance to do both.
The same people who once donated to the red kettle are often the ones most in need today. The ability to accept debit and credit cards will ensure more donations.
Of course, parents everywhere will have to adapt to the little ones who want to be the ones to drop the coins or bills into the classic red kettle, but maybe they’ll find a way to do both.