Shoppers at stores across Johnson County in the last month may have come across an unusual sight: an unattended red kettle.

A shortage of bell ringers this year has The Salvation Army officials concerned that they won’t raise enough money to reach this year’s fundraising goal in Johnson County, meaning they could have to cut the number of people they help in 2018. With fundraising ending on Saturday, the organization is still looking for more volunteers to fill in last-minute slots.

Last year, bell ringers for The Salvation Army spent about 2,800 hours at stores across Johnson County. This year, including everyone who is signed up to ring through Saturday, the total amount of hours is expected to be at 1,900, said Andy Amick, the red kettle campaign manager for the Indiana Division of the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army has a goal of raising $85,000 this year in Johnson County, but as of Monday night, only $50,000 had been donated, he said.

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The result is that the Johnson County Salvation Army office will have less money to give to people who need assistance, such as with help paying rent or utilities, Amick said.

The Salvation Army relies on a combination of volunteers and paid, seasonal workers to try and make sure the kettles are constantly manned, which is vital for their fundraising efforts. Compared to last year, they’ve had 100 fewer volunteer hours and 800 fewer paid hours of bell ringing, Amick said.

Unattended kettles hinder fundraising efforts. A kettle with a bell ringer will bring in about $30 an hour in donations. A kettle left unattended might get $1 an hour, he said.

Paid bell ringers, who start off at $9 an hour, are a vital part of the bell ringing efforts as the organization tries to make sure every kettle is manned, Amick said.

But getting seasonal workers has become more challenging as the economy has improved. As unemployment numbers drop, the pool of potential workers shrinks, a problem that the Salvation Army is seeing elsewhere in Indiana as well, he said.

Of the volunteer bell ringers, about two-thirds of them are there because they’ve been sentenced to community service work and have chosen to do that with The Salvation Army, Amick said.

“We’re beyond fortunate to have a good relationship with the court system,” he said. “If they weren’t sending us the workers they have, I can’t begin to imagine where we would be in relation to our goal.”

Another challenge is that with Christmas falling on a Monday, bell ringers won’t be out on one of the busiest shopping days of the year — Christmas Eve — because the Salvation Army doesn’t do bell ringing on Sundays, Amick said.

Volunteers can still sign up to ring bells last-minute. The website registertoring.com has an up-to-date listing of all the available openings. Some of the locations where they’ve had a shortage of bell ringers are at the Greenwood Park Mall, Rural King and the Walmart stores in Franklin and Greenwood. All those locations are ones where the kettle is indoors, Amick said.

Once someone registers, all they have to do is show up. An apron and bell will be left for them at the kettle, he said.

At a glance

How to volunteer

The Johnson County Salvation Army is seeking volunteers to man its red kettles at 14 locations across the county. Volunteers can sign up online at registertoring.com or call the Johnson County office at 371-881-2505.

At a glance

Here is where you can donate to one of the Salvation Army’s red kettles this year:

Greenwood

  • Greenwood Park Mall, 1251 S. U.S. 31
  • Kroger, 2200 Independence Drive
  • Kroger, 3100 Meridian Parke Drive
  • Kroger, 5961 N. State Road 135
  • Sam’s Club, 1101 Windhorst Way
  • Walgreens, 700 S. U.S. 31
  • Walgreens, 720 S. State Road 135
  • Walmart, 882 S. State Road 135

Franklin

  • Walmart, 2125 N. Morton St.
  • Kroger, 970 N. Morton St.
  • Walgreens, 20 S. Morton St.
  • Big Lots, 1538 N. Morton St.

Edinburgh

  • Circle K, 10080 N. U.S. 31
  • Edinburgh Premium Outlets, 11622 NE Executive Drive
Author photo
Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jtellers@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2702.