WINCHESTER — The local Salvation Army is seeking bell ringers to assist with its upcoming Red Kettle Campaign, which is the organization’s largest fundraiser.

This year’s campaign begins Nov. 19 on Winchester’s Loudoun Street Mall and continues until Dec. 24. Money raised helps area residents with food, temporary housing and other assistance. The fundraiser, which is an annual event, involves bell ringers soliciting donations at numerous kettles stationed around the community.

Winchester Salvation Army Capt. Jared Martin is trying to recruit more volunteers to help. Last week, he addressed the Frederick County Board of Supervisors about the nonprofit group’s needs and invited members to ring bells at Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Apple Blossom Mall or the Loudoun Street Mall. He told them it would be “tremendous” if they could invite their friends, family, coworkers and church groups to volunteer as well.

This year’s fundraising goal is $75,000, down from last year’s goal of $95,000 and the previous year’s goal of $140,000. The Red Kettle Campaign netted $78,823 last year.

The local Salvation Army has struggled in recent years to meet its fundraising goal. Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic made efforts especially challenging, in part because many senior citizens, who make up a large portion of the Red Kettle Campaign’s bell ringers, did not participate over health concerns, Martin previously said.

This year, he hopes to enlist several hundred volunteers. He said bell ringers work in two-hour shifts, Monday through Saturday, at a time convenient for them. He said he “can’t overstate” the need for volunteers.

“For bell ringing, there is definitely an incredible need for volunteers,” Martin said. “This year, we certainly are relying on people just able to come and give two hours at a time to ring a bell. It’s one of our most important fundraisers of the year.”

Volunteers can schedule a time by calling the Salvation Army’s office at 540-662-4777 or emailing Tracy.Hines@uss.salvationarmy.org.

The Winchester Salvation Army operates a 48-bed homeless shelter for men, women, and children at 300 Fort Collier Road. The shelter houses about 225 individuals each year. The organization also operates a soup kitchen that serves approximately 1,500 meals a month and a food pantry that serves about 150 families a month.

This year, the organization has provided about 450 people with assistance with utility bills. It also sent a disaster response team to Louisiana after Hurricane Ida.

While the Red Kettle Campaign officially starts Nov. 19, Martin said some bell ringers will begin on Nov. 6.

— Contact Josh Janney at jjanney@winchesterstar.com

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