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Salvation Army falling short on red kettle holiday donations drive

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
A Salvation Army red kettle outside an Acme supermarket in northern New Castle County

The Salvation Army of Delaware is only about halfway to its $500,000 goal for the holiday red kettle donation drive. 


Development Director Carl Colantuono says donations in Kent and Sussex Counties are on track with last year — but New Castle County is behind.“We’re about half of where we should be, and it’s concerning because this is how we fund all the things we do.”

At an Acme in Brandywine Hundred, bell ringer Lewis Martin said he has noticed a drop in donations. “Not everybody’s giving like they were last year,” he said. “I don’t know why. I mean it’s mind-boggling that it is this way, but that’s what’s happening this year.”

Colantuono blames the statewide shortfall on the timing of the holidays this year. “We start after Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving was in the last week of November. So that cuts the bell-ringing season by at least a week.” The red kettles accept in-person donations throughout the state until Dec. 23. 

The Salvation Army runs services including an emergency shelter, a senior center and food pantries in Delaware. Colantuono says even with corporate donations and grants, the red kettle drive is the largest source of support for the organization. 

“To tell you that we won’t do the things we do is not correct. But at the same time, things start to get a little leaner,” said Colantuono. “For example, we run a code purple, which might have a hundred men, women and children, unfortunately. We offer them food when the come, when they go. We offer laundry and showers. With fewer people staffed to that, the laundry and showers go away—but people still get in out of the cold.”

The Salvation Army is allowing donations at the kettles to be made through Apple Pay and Google Pay smartphone apps for the first time this year. Donations fund services in the county in which they were raised. 


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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