Unified, expanded effort aims to recoup anticipated kettle losses

Between the disasters, job losses and hardships underscored by the weight of COVID-19, this year has left many Americans in need. As Christmas approaches, it’s clear the number of people coming to The Salvation Army for help will not dwindle. Christmas in 2020 will be different, too. 

The Salvation Army is combatting the challenge of increased needs in an uncertain economy by debuting kettles early—with a single message across all U.S. territories. The goal? To help place presents under the tree, put food on the table, pay bills and provide shelter for those without a home. The message? Rescue Christmas. 

“We’ve seen a need like never before this year as the pandemic affects everyone,” said Territorial Commander Commissioner Douglas Riley. “At one of our food banks, I talked with a young volunteer who had just seen one of his teachers waiting in line for food. The need is so great, and while we don’t know what the future of this crisis holds, we do know many people are going to look to us this year to rescue Christmas. So we’re starting early to raise the funds we need to do it.”

Last year, Americans gave $126 million to the Red Kettle Campaign. This year, leaders anticipate the amount raised could be reduced by as much 50 percent, due to COVID-19-related reasons, including the closing of retail stores, decline in the usage of cash and coins, less foot traffic at stores and an increased unemployment rate.  

Funds raised at the kettle stay in the community in which it is donated and traditionally have a range of uses, including utility and rent assistance, emergency/disaster services, shelter services and emergency foster care all year long. A decrease in kettle donations means the Army won’t be able to provide needed services. An expansion of the traditional November-December kettle fundraising campaign aims to combat this. 

“Meeting need at the point of need—that’s what Rescue Christmas is about,” said National Community Relations Director Dale Bannon, who shared a story of how The Salvation Army once rescued Christmas for his family after his dad got a pink slip at work right before Christmas. A neighbor called in to ask for someone to help, and an officer brought gifts and a food basket. 

The goal of the uniform approach is to create a groundswell of support for the Army to be successful in rescuing Christmas for those in need, something the Western Territory has already begun working on through its inaugural Kettle Task Force. The task force gave final recommendations Aug. 5, prioritizing bellringer safety and online kettle events and experiences.

“The pandemic has meant a lot of people have lost jobs and businesses. They’ve lost hope and are wondering how they’ll experience Christmas like they normally do,” said Western Territory Communications Secretary Lt. Colonel Kyle Smith. “We can come alongside them and bring back the hope of Christmas, offering food for the table and gifts for their kids. It’s a way of showing Christ’s love, yet again, in a practical way—of reminding so many there is a God who loves them and people who do, too.

“It’s also a chance for us to help those who are doing well help those who need to experience a bit of hope this Christmas season,” Smith said.  

So what should you expect this Christmas?  Refreshed virtual red kettles with custom URLs that link to a corps-specific site, along with a digital toolkit to support the virtual red kettle campaign and digital fundraising. COVID-19-related resources for bell ringers and kettle partners. Big Data analytics for data-informed kettle placement. A national Kettle Pay program to provide a cashless option at kettles, with an upgrade that allows donations to be routed to the corps instead of the donor’s billing address. Opportunities to volunteer virtually and in-person, among other updates.

Two-time Grammy Award-winning and multi-platinum selling artist Lauren Daigle’s hit “Rescue” serves as the anthem for this effort, a fitting soundtrack for the help that The Salvation Army provides to more than 23 million people a year.

“The Rescue Christmas effort has two dimensions: For the giver, who can help others, and for the receiver, so this important time in our calendar—when we celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas—can be saved,” Riley said. “Let’s rescue Christmas for people who would otherwise not have one, whether it be due to COVID-19, loss of jobs or fires. Together, let’s make Christmastime in 2020 special.”

Visit RescueChristmas.org to give or learn more about how you can help The Salvation Army rescue Christmas this year. 


Do Good:

  • Learn more about how you can help The Salvation Army make Christmas possible for those in need at RescueChristmas.org.
  • Find volunteer opportunities near you by visiting volunteer.usawest.org.
  • Did you know The Salvation Army served more than 23 million Americans last year fighting hunger, homelessness, substance abuse and more—all in a fight for good? Where can you help? Take our quiz to find your cause and learn how you can join in today.