Bell ringers for the Salvation Army collect half of the annual operating budget for the charity, but this year, that campaign is falling behind.
The reason? The Salvation Army is paying fewer bell ringers while seeking more volunteers.
Officials with the St. Joseph County Salvation Army say kettle donations are down by 50 percent.
While the campaign did start a week later this year, there's another reason why the money is slow coming in: more volunteers are needed to ring those bells.
Bob Stevens is a volunteer bell ringer. The 82-year-old South Bend man is working a two-hour shift outside the Kroger on Ireland Road.
He says, if needed, he would stay longer. "I love to help people,” he says. “I was asked to volunteer, so that's why I'm here."
In a move to cut-back on paid bell ringers, the Salvation Army of St. Joseph County is relying on more people like Bob to help fill their kettles.
Captain Nick Montgomery says, "Bottom line: we are able to serve more people with the net revenue from the kettles, rather than having to pay someone to stand out there and ring."
Montgomery knew the move toward more volunteers would lose some money.
However, that, coupled with a later start for the kettle campaign means bell ringers are about $12,000 dollars behind the same time last year, in a fundraiser that collects half the operating budget for the year.
Montgomery says, "Stressing volunteers, less paid bell ringers; it's literally a leap of faith because our entire budget, program direct service, is really in limbo. But we believe ultimately that the Lord is going to provide for us what we need," through more people like Bob Stevens, ringing the bells for free.
Bob doesn’t notice any decrease in giving at his post. He says, “I don't notice that here. It possibly is down.”
The campaign goes through December 23rd.
To volunteer, visit www.ringbells.org for more information.