ANN ARBOR — The familiar sounds of ringing bells could be heard throughout Briarwood Mall as members of the Salvation Army of Washtenaw County kicked-off the annual Red Kettle holiday campaign on Friday.
"With Ann Arbor's poverty rate at 24 percent, we expect the demand for assistance to continue increasing," Major John Williams said. "Every dollar donated in Washtenaw County helps us provide important services to people right here in our communities."
The red kettle campaign is The Salvation Army's main fundraiser, comprising 80 percent of the organization's budget to help local families, especially during the holidays.
"Due to the increased demand in services to meet basic needs (food, clothing, and shelter), we've raised our fundraising goal by 10 percent to $330,000," Williams said.
According to the Salvation Army, roughly 80 cents of every dollar raised through the campaign is returned to Washtenaw County communities. The remaining 20 cents is allocated to the nonprofit's budget.
Williams said last year's goal was met through a combination of donations at local kettles, a massive mail appeal and The Salvation Army's newest tool — credit card machines.
"We have four credit card machines, two in Ypsilanti and two at Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor. They work out very well, especially in the mall. People are doing most of their shopping with a credit card so they’re swiping them at our bell station. It’s easy to give, it’s quick, and they can get a receipt right off the machine," Williams said.
Williams said the success of the campaign often hinges on large sponsors, such as Briarwood, as well as the efforts of local service clubs in the rural communities of Dexter, Chelsea, Manchester, Milan and Saline, among others.
"We get some fantastic support from our outlying communities in the county," Williams said. "Many people know that they could be helping their neighbor when they donate."
Joe Scheuring, advisory board chairman for the Washtenaw County chapter, said bell ringer volunteers are vital to the success of the campaign.
"Need has no season," Scheuring said. "For many of our residents, their needs run throughout the year. We place great hope in the people of Washtenaw County to give generously, as they have in years past, to help our campaign succeed," Scheuring said.
In addition to the red kettle campaign, The Salvation Army's annual Angel Tree campaign runs concurrently Nov. 1-Dec. 18 and allows community members to select an angel tag with a local child’s age, gender, size and suggested gift items. Trees will be located at several area retailers including Briarwood Mall and Kmart in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.
All Angel Tree gifts should be returned unwrapped to the same tree location by Dec. 18. Gifts collected through this program are distributed to families who applied for Christmas assistance through The Salvation Army. Williams said currently 500 families have signed up to participate in the Angel Tree program.
"We want to make sure that every child wakes up on Christmas morning with a gift under the tree," Williams said. "By participating in the Angel Tree program, parents who have registered for holiday assistance, can shop with dignity for their children."
For more information, visit www.sawashtenaw.org to learn more about volunteer opportunities during the holidays.