Tylor LeBlanc of Bath volunteered to be a bell-ringer outside the Shaw’s in Bath for the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle Campaign. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

BATH — While bells continue to ring outside grocery stores and department stores, those bright red kettles are noticeably lighter this holiday season.

This year, the Bath and Brunswick division of the Salvation Army set a goal of raising $68,000 through the annual Red Kettle Campaign, but the nonprofit is $7,000 shy of its goal compared to this time last year. The Salvation Army credits the decrease in donations to a late Thanksgiving, resulting in fewer days for people to donate.

The money raised during the campaign, which dates back to 1891, is used to purchase food for food banks and warm coats and toys for children. The donations are also used to assist with rent and utility bills for those in need.

Lt. Neil Childs, corps officer for the Brunswick and Bath Salvation Army, said donating, “helps your fellow man.”

“All the money that’s collected in the kettles stays in our service area, and we service 20 towns in the Midcoast area,” Childs said.

Last year, the Salvation Army’s Northern New England division, which services Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, helped 153,680 people during the holiday season and throughout the year.

Nationwide, the Salvation Army’s Kettle Ball Campaign raised $142.7 million nationwide last year, which was used to help 800,000 people in disaster relief efforts following Hurricane Maria and wildfires in California.

“We’re here to help people get back on their feet,” said Childs. “We like to think of ourselves as a hand up, not a Band-Aid.”

With 330 kettles across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, the nonprofit’s Northern New England Division set a goal of raising $1,997,950 this holiday season.

Last year the Bath and Brunswick division set a goal of $71,000 and missed it by less than $1,000, which Childs credited to a decreasing number of bell-ringers.

Tylor LeBlanc of Bath said he volunteered to step in for a bell-ringer at Shaw’s in Bath and has noticed a decrease in volunteers and donations.

“I’d guess every one in five people who pass by gives a dollar or two,” said LeBlanc. “I’ll never judge anyone for not donating. You never know what someone is dealing with, especially around the holidays.”

To help boost donations, the Salvation Army is holding Kettle Blitz Day across its northern New England division. During the annual event, each corps throughout the division will compete to see which can collect the most donations in a singular day.

To streamline the giving process, the Salvation Army is now offering the option to donate using Apple Pay or Google Pay at red kettle sites. Those who use digital payment options can tap or scan their phones, which will take them to the Salvation Army website where they can make a digital donation.

Childs said the digital payment option was added after bell-ringers noticed, “Fewer and fewer people are carrying cash with them.”

The Red Kettle Campaign ends at 4 p.m. on Dec. 24.

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