The numbers hit Major Rick Starkey of the Salvation Army.
The director of the Concord chapter says it isn’t the loss of sales like it happened last year due to COVID. Things are making a good recovery this holiday season, during what is known as the annual Red Kettle Campaign.
The cool smile and ringing bells associated with the most visible fundraising campaign of the year greet you every year like a deeply rooted piece of Christmas landscape.
The problem so far, says Starkey, is finding volunteers and seasonal workers to flash those smiles and ring those bells.
One day that week, Starkey saw an all-too-familiar scene: three of the seven slots in town had no one to look after the kettle. That has never been the case.
COVID left workers in cafes, restaurants and fast food outlets in the cold. This pool of employees was slow to return, leading some companies to offer well over $ 10 an hour from Starkey.
“If I had someone who wanted a seasonal job, we could do that,” said Starkey. “Stations cannot fill up because nobody wants to work there anymore. Help wanted signs are posted everywhere. You can work outside or inside for $ 14 an hour. “
Starkey has hired many callers. School classes, church districts, Kiwanis, Rotary. But the COVID-induced exodus from the workforce has not yet resolved itself.
The money raised through the campaign is essential to the Salvation Army’s operations and accounts for 25% of its total annual budget, Starkey said.
By mid-week after the Salvation Army set a target of $ 75,000 for 2021, the Salvation Army had raised nearly $ 10,000 since the cauldrons opened on Nov. 18, and Starkey said about two-thirds of the total collected in the past two weeks. until the closing date on Christmas Eve.
Red Kettle Campaign volunteers and staff are out six days a week, eight hours a day. You have Sundays off. Two-hour shifts for two people are possible. Full-time employment is also possible.
The tradition began 130 years ago in San Francisco. Free Christmas meals were given to the poor and 30 Salvation Army posts opened on the west coast in five years.
Starkey and his wife gave their lives to the Salvation Army. He stressed that it is first and foremost a church that aims to help others.
Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he attended Army Bible studies. As a teenager, he attended the organization’s summer camp and worked there for nine summers.
After high school and a job as a program assistant in the Pittsburgh Chapter, Starkey met his wife and the two began their journey, a commitment that is far more than a job.
The couple attended a seminar together in New York City and were appointed officers in 1995. They entered service in Massachusetts, Springfield, Malden, and Boston. Then came work in Middletown, Conn. Kingston, NY, and here for the past 4½ years.
Starkey, 51, has been a Salvation Army officer for 27 years. He is an ordained minister and says this is not just a job. Not to him.
“I grew up in it,” said Starkey. “It’s like a gradual process. As pastors, we believe that it was our calling. If this isn’t what you should be doing then you will know and shouldn’t be here. It’s not a job. “
This is Starkey’s fifth Christmas in Concord. He said the army raised $ 95,000 in 2019, down from $ 55,000 last year when the world was turned upside down.
The money, a large part of the annual budget, will be used to fund the Salvation Army’s McKenna House, which provides emergency shelter and case management. In addition, employees and volunteers buy clothes, groceries and toys, vouchers are given out, and overheads and construction costs are incurred.
The Red Kettle campaign ends on December 24th. Starkey isn’t sure he will have filled each of the posts for the remainder of the month at both Market Baskets, Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Shaw’s. Walmart and the Market Baskets each have two entrances for boiler work.
“We count the money every day and deposit it every day,” said Starkey. “Concord has been very generous despite the lack of people to work on it, and we expect this to increase as Christmas approaches.”