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Bell Ringers Temporarily Silenced, Peoria Salvation Army Still ‘Optimistic’

Rogelio V. Solis

Peoria-area shoppers won’t hear bells ringing at the Salvation Army’s traditional Red Kettles for a while.

<--break->The traditional holiday donation collectors normally stationed outside storefronts will not be manned for at least five days as a COVID-19 health precaution.

“We have a paid worker that contracted COVID, and unfortunately they’ve had some contact with all of our paid staff,” said Tri-County commander Major Jesse Collins. “So at this point, we’re quarantined; we’re following CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines to the tee.”

Collins said he hopes the potential decline in kettle donations will be offset by a strong response to the agency's mail campaign and online contributions.

“We’re optimistic; I’m always optimistic,” he said, noting the benevolence of Peoria-area residents. “They’ve come through every year and I’m sure they’ll come through this year. It’s a very generous community.”

Collins said generally the first weekend of December generates about $100,000 in kettle donations.

“I don’t know yet if we’re going to be able to make any kind of volunteer arrangements for Friday and Saturday for some of our key locations,” he said. “But at this point, you will find that the bells are silent.

“We’ve agreed with the stores to be very careful, and so we’re just keeping our part of the bargain that we will not put anybody ... at risk of contracting COVID.”

Collins said in light of the pandemic, the Salvation Army started this year’s campaign early. The drive’s theme is “Rescuing Christmas” and has a fundraising goal of $1.65 million--the same as last year.

“So far, we’ve done very well with kettles, but for the bells to fall silent is going to cost us quite a bit of income,” said Collins, who encourages people to make online contributions at www.sapeoria.org. “I think the community will rally. I think there will be people that will step up and say, ‘Let us help you make up the difference.’”

Collins said that while the Salvation Army exceeded its target last year, he anticipates a greater need for aid across the community in January and February.

“We want anyone who needs help to come to us and get assistance,” he said. “We will figure out how to solve their problem, and if we can’t solve it, there’s always another agency. We work with their agencies all over this community.”

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