It just doesn’t feel like the holiday season till you see a bell ringer standing next to a red kettle or a Christmas tree filled with paper angels hosting the names of boys and girls in need. What you may not know is the Salvation Army is responsible for both of those things. The Holidays are a super busy time of year for the Salvation Army. They do a majority of their fundraising through the red kettles, and they use the Angel Tree program to help provide Christmas for the children in our community who may not have it without them. But this year, because of COVID-19, things are quite a bit different, and there’s a concern that they may not be able to do what they’ve always done in our community.
Whether you realize it or not, you probably know someone connected to or who has benefited from the Salvation Army in our community. The Salvation Army operates the Forsyth County Center of Hope, the only family shelter in Forsyth County. It provides housing for single mothers, single women, moms and dads with their children, and even single fathers. They offer a safe, caring environment and allow parents to work with case managers to identify challenges and obstacles, address them, and move towards self-sufficiency. They run two food pantries in the county, one in Kernersville and one in Winston-Salem. There’s also a senior center and a Boys & Girls Club run under the Salvation Army’s care in our community. It’s a considerable presence in this community and is working to do good on so many levels.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has created a lot of issues for all the Salvation Army Programs. What has been a blessing is how they have overcome the obstacles and continue to work hard for the people in this community. Food pantries have adjusted to packing boxes for families and providing drive-thru services. The family shelter has provided a virtual learning center experience for the children to keep them engaged in their school program and help them socialize. The senior center has done its best to distance seniors while still allowing them to participate in programs. And the Boys & Girls Club, even with reduced capacity, has provided a learning center and a summer camp program to help families get through these trying times.
But now the Salvation Army is facing yet another challenge. With the holiday season approaching, they’ve had to switch gears on how they’ve always done things. Not all the volunteers are comfortable with in-person roles. And with reduced amounts of red kettles and angel trees around town but an increase in families in need, there’s a possibility they won’t be able to provide what they always have this holiday season. Area Commander Major Andrew Wiley said, “Christmas will be different this year, and children have been through a lot. We need some help to rescue Christmas for them. We just need a different way to get there because of COVID-19.”
The Salvation Army has some innovative team members, and they have put thought into how they can continue their programs, even in a pandemic, and do it safely for everyone. Of course, their number one priority is following the safety protocols that will keep everyone safe, maintaining social distance, wearing masks, and keeping things clean. They’ve also transitioned a portion of the Angel Tree program and the red kettle program to a virtual platform. By visiting their website, you can adopt an angel from the Angel Tree and either shop for the gifts, turn them in or purchase them online and have them shipped directly to the Salvation Army. You can also sponsor a red kettle, set up a donation goal, share it with your friends and family, and raise money virtually. All that being said, there will still be angel trees and red kettles around the community, just in a reduced capacity. If you’re wary of putting cash in a red kettle, they’ve thought of something for that as well. Each kettle around town will accept Apple Pay and Google Pay and have a QR code available so you can make a contactless donation.
If you’re wondering how you can help, please keep in mind that there are different opportunities available based on your comfort level. There are volunteer opportunities with safety protocols in place for bell ringing and angel tree. You can also donate money or adopt an Angel Tree child. Major Wiley went on to say, “Our community has never let us down, and we know we can’t do what we do without their support. We look forward to seeing this community rally together in new ways to rescue Christmas for our most vulnerable neighbors.”
If you would like more information about the community programs available through the Salvation Army or learn more about how you can help, please visit their website at salvationarmyws.org.