BALTIMORE – The Salvation Army of Greater Baltimore hopes to raise $1 million in kettle drive donations this holiday season, despite Target stores’ ban on bell ringers nationwide.
The 2004 Red Kettle Fundraising Campaign kicked off during a brief ceremony at the Baltimore Inner Harbor Amphitheater Tuesday, complete with holiday music played by the Salvation Army Brass Band.
Bell ringers dressed in vintage Salvation Army uniforms collected the symbolic first donations, marking the official beginning of the group’s holiday fund-raising season.
“This is the time of year we want to take pressure off of low-income families,” said Maj. Jim Arrowood, Baltimore Area Commander for the Salvation Army. “Our objective is to give them a brighter day and a ray of hope.”
But those familiar red kettles will be missing from Target stores this holiday season, as the chain retailer will no longer exempt bell ringers from its no-solicitation policy.
“We notified the Salvation Army of this decision in January of 2004, well in advance of the holiday season,” said Lena Michaud, a spokeswoman for Target stores. The store wanted to allow the group maximum time to find other funding, she said.
“If we continue to allow the Salvation Army to solicit then it opens the door for other organizations to solicit our guests,” Michaud said.
While no other major retailers have banned bell ringers, the closing and downsizing of stores such as Ames and Kmart, respectively, has also affected donations over the last few years, said Lafeea Watson, spokeswoman for the Salvation Army of Greater Baltimore.
Wal-Mart has limited the time bell ringers may solicit customers to 14 days during the holiday season.
“The key is you want to be in locations that have high-traffic areas,” said Watson. “Losing Target was costly because it’s a high-traffic area.”
Donations received from kettles at Target stores accounted for about $70,000 of the total holiday income last year for the Salvation Army of Greater Baltimore, which includes Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Northern Anne Arundel, Carroll and Howard Counties.
“We feel confident the people of Greater Baltimore will step up to the plate,” Arrowood said. “We operate 365 days a year . . . need knows no season.”
The Salvation Army of Greater Baltimore received nearly $223,000 last holiday season, earning 6 percent of its total annual income through the holiday appeal, according to a news release.
Donations are used to provide food and toys for low-income families and support year-round social services programs.
“This is about love,” said Deborah Tyson, unit director for the Franklin Square Boys and Girls Club after the ceremony. “I think it’s important that everyone open up their hearts and minds to the spirit of giving, especially at this time of year.”
The Baltimore-area Wachovia bank received the Outstanding Corporate Contributions Award and Maryland first lady Kendel S. Ehrlich received the Outstanding Civic and Charitable Contributions Award during the ceremony.
“This is an incredible organization,” said Ehrlich. “The money that is raised goes directly for services to people who really need it, and that’s really terrific.”