You know the holiday season is near when you see and hear those bell ringers from the Salvation Army outside local stores. This year, the charity kicked off an early mission to rescue Christmas as more families struggle due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"People have come to us who used to be donors to the Salvation Army," Salvation Army National Commander Kenneth Hodder, told CBN News. "Since the middle of March, we've served more than 100 million meals. We've provided one and a half million more nights of shelter than we would in a normal year."
Hodder anticipates needs such as feeding families, paying bills, and providing shelter to extend into Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"We currently project an increase of about 155 percent over last year, which would mean about 6.6 million people will be coming to the Salvation Army for assistance this Christmas," he explained.
In response to the growing needs, the Salvation Army has launched an initiative called "Rescue Christmas", to head off a potential 50 percent decrease in donations.
"Last year we raised about a $126 million at the Red Kettles and as you can imagine a 50 percent decrease on that figure would be devastating," said Hodder.
With less traffic in malls and shopping centers, fewer bells and red kettles will be on display this holiday season, leading the Army to offer new ways to give.
"All of our bell ringers will have all of the necessary PPE's," Hodder said. "They'll be socially distancing. We'll be cleaning the kettles regularly. In addition to that, however, we're going to provide more near field technology, which will allow people to give over their phones when they come close to a Salvation Army Christmas kettle. They'll be able to contribute on their phones."
Another hi-tech option includes giving via Alexa, Amazon's cloud-based voice service.
"They can simply say Alexa donate to the Salvation Army and they'll be able to do that. Quite remarkable," Hodder commented.
Meanwhile, he sees this holiday season as a greater opportunity to meet the spiritual needs of people affected by the challenges of this year.
"It is precisely at this time of year and precisely at the moment when all of our human reliance on these things of this earth begins to crumble. We can turn to the source of our true strength, the source of truly rescuing Christmas in the person of Jesus Christ," said Hodder. "And so, we're anticipating a challenging Christmas season but ultimately one in which he will be glorified."
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