BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - Even though Christmas is still three months away, the Salvation Army said it needs to be rescued.
"This year, more than ever, we're expecting a larger number of those in need," Major Annette Lock from the Salvation Army told WBEN. "So many families in all of our communities, but right here in Erie County and Buffalo, specifically, there are so many families that are going to need extra assistance on the holidays."
The need comes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that has impacted thousands of families, be it through contracting the virus or from a loss of work.
Traditionally, volunteers would be stationed in various establishments like groceries stores and malls to ring a bell as part of the annual red kettle drive. Lock said, though, there may be fewer people out shopping this season and a limited number of locations the volunteers can raise funds at.
Fewer people are also carrying cash.
"All of those kind of things are going to impacting the fundraising efforts through the holidays," Lock said. "That, coupled with the number of increased families coming to us for assistance, we need the community's assistance and partnership this year more than ever."
Since the pandemic impacted everyday life locally in March, Lock said there's been a 70 percent increase in the amount of people that need to be fed. Since April, the Salvation Army has served nearly 6 million meals.
"That can be broadly looked at at all of our services that we provide across the nation," Lock said. "We're expecting that same kind of response at Christmas with families in need and really just having to ramp up the amount of distribution and services we're able to provide to get families through this time."
But in order to accommodate the increased need, their abilities to provide are lessened due to social distancing restrictions and other regulations.
Expect to see bell-ringers with the red kettle around the second week of November. Lock said the volunteers will be wearing masks and the kettles will be regularly sanitized.
They're also encouraging you to donate electronically, an initiative they began last year.
"It's going to be even more important than ever," Lock said. "It's a contact-less way to really make a difference and be able to support the Salvation Army and, therefore, your friends and neighbors in this community. By using kettle touch pay, all you need is a phone...the technology is attached to the kettle sign. You just bump and go. Basically touch your kettle on the chip that's attached to the sign and you don't have to touch the sign. Just hold your phone in front of it. A website will come up that allows you to very quickly and safely and efficiently make a donation to the Salvation Army."
The Salvation Army has been planning for the Christmas season since July and August.
They have raised about $22,000 already. You can donate by clicking here