ROCKFORD (WREX) — The season of giving is well underway for The Salvation Army. It's famous red kettles are now up across the area, but the group says it's had to prepare for this season like never before.
The ringing of the bells is a familiar sound and one you'll be hearing up until Christmas. The Salvation Army's annual Red Kettle Campaign kicked off earlier this month, but Winnebago County's Coordinator Major Mark Martsolf says safety preparations were in the works since August and are now in full force.
"All of our bell-ringers are taking their temperature every day when they come to ring for us," Martsolf explains. "A lot of the stores are requiring the bell-ringer goes to the front desk and has their temperature taken."
Additionally, bell-ringers sterilize the bells and the kettles. Plus, donated money is sprayed with a special sanitizer before it's counted.
But despite the pandemic, that hasn't stopped people from giving.
"Donations are [doing] really well," Matthew Finn, a bell-ringer for the campaign, says. "They’ve been giving quite a bit."
You can tell by the noise the kettle makes as swings with coins hitting each other and the inside. Shoppers say they know it's especially important to donate this year.
"This time of year is so important to donate because there’s so many people that need help," shopper Erica Smith says.
But although, the Red Kettle Campaign is synonymous with cash and change, there's another way to donate by using your smartphone. It's not a new way of giving, The Salvation Army had it last year, but it is one more way to try and stay safe.
Here's how it works, just open your camera and wait for the little pop up at the top of your screen.
"You hit that [url link] and it takes you right to The Salvation Army's website and asks you the amount you want to give," Martsolf says.
Major Martsolf says the need is much greater this year, 510 percent greater to be exact, but even with fewer volunteers due to the pandemic, he's confident the community will come through.
The campaign runs for another month and will have 36 total locations in Winnebago County.
In all, The Salvation Army hopes to raise $300,000, and all of the money will stay local.