Middletown and New Castle County see a decrease in kettle collection for 2019. Kent met its goal while Sussex exceeded expectations.
Every holiday season, people in Santa hats bundled up in fluffy coats and scarves are ringing bells outside grocery stores, hoping to inspire pedestrians to put spare change into a red kettle. Contributions go to help families in their local communities.
In 2019, Middletown’s bell ringers struggled to get the coins and raised $18,400 in the Salvation Army 2019 red kettle season, $8,000 less than the previous year — 30% less.
Jim Young, Salvation Army volunteer organizer for Middletown, gave a report during the January town council meeting and said this year had a significant drop, attributing it to five fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas and fewer volunteers.
“It was a bit disappointing this year … The reality is we didn’t have the bodies to cover the areas that we normally would have,” Young said.
Carl Colantuono, Salvation Army Delaware development director, said the collection was about $26,400 in 2018.
He said the town had more than 350 volunteers, but most were high school students who could only help in the late afternoon and evenings.
“Getting volunteers during key times was difficult,” he said. “We get a tremendous amount of support from the high schools, which is great, but we are losing coverage of key spots in the morning and midday.”
Young said the volunteers worked about 521 hours this year, about 100 less than previous seasons.
The smaller take was seen throughout New Castle County.
Colantuono said the county had a $19,000 drop from 2018. Countywide, volunteers raised $147,000 compared to $166,000 in 2018 — about 11% less.
“[The county] just isn’t able to do what it used to,” he said. “We expected growth, and we did not get growth. We didn’t even meet last year’s number.”
The Salvation Army sets a goal for each county in Delaware, usually higher than the previous year’s total. Delaware’s northernmost county had a goal of $200,000. Despite its population and the state’s highest median household income, it was the only one that did not meet its goal.
Colantuono said Kent met its $100,000 goal while Sussex exceeded theirs of $200,000, collecting $250,000.
Colantuono attributes some of it to Kmarts shutting their doors across the country.
“The closing of Kmarts nationwide affected us because we had a loss of sites where we can collect funds. Every year we gain or lose places we can collect.” Locations in Pike Creek, Bear and Rehoboth Beach announced in late 2019 they would close, leaving none in the state.
And today, people carry less cash.
Americans’ reliance on cash has declined over the years, according to an AP report, so the Salvation Army added Apple and Google payment options, hoping this would boost collection.
Next year, the campaign will lose about five days again, and Colantuono said the Salvation Army will have to work to find more sites and more volunteers.