The familiar Salvation Army bell ringing and red kettles will still be at stores this year, although at fewer locations.
Salvation Army Kona Corps Lt. Raghel Santiago said there will only be three red kettle sites in Kona to make in-person donations this year even though the need is greater than ever amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that’s strangled the local economy, putting thousands out of work.
KTA Super Stores in Kailua-Kona and Keauhou along with the Kona Walmart will be the only locations hosting the annual Red Kettle Campaign in Kona, and volunteer bell ringers are still needed.
“Last year, we raised $64,000,” said Santiago. “Prior to COVID, we used to give out 90 to 120 bags of food a week. Since COVID hit we have been giving out about 560 bags each week. Our kettle drive will help us to continue and sustain this program.”
Santiago said the owner of the Kona Tiki Hotel offered a matching donation up to $25,000 so the Salvation Army can meet its kettle goal this year, “because he knows that there is a greater need this year more than ever before.”
In Hilo, four kettles will be running this holiday season, said Hilo temple Corps Officer Lt. Danielle Bratton. Countertop kettles have also been set up throughout Hilo, including at Homestreet Bank.
“We will be ringing at Macy’s starting (today) on the Puainako side, and we are already ringing at KTA downtown, KTA Puainako and Walmart main entrance,” said Bratton.
In North Hawaii, volunteers with red kettles will be stationed at five locations spanning the Hamakua, North Kohala and South Kohala districts, said Gary Todd, ministry leader for The Salvation Army’s Honokaa Corps.
Red kettles will be set up at Malama Market in Honokaa, Ace Hardware and KTA Super Stores in Waimea, K. Takata Store in Kapaau and KTA Super Stores in Waikoloa, he said.
No amount of donation is too small because it all adds up and helps fund food drops, Christmas for the less fortunate and other programs.
“We have had so many people inquiring about Christmas this year,” Santiago said, adding applications are piling up in Kona. “We are still helping with children from newborn to 17 and also give gifts to the kupuna and those with special needs.”
In previous years, the organization has been able to be generous with gifts, providing 2-3 gifts per child, but with the surge in demand, depending on donations, it is looking at one toy and one stocking stuffer this year.
“They understand and are just thankful for anything. They don’t want to rob the child, especially the ones who get gifts from Santa,” Santiago said.
Donations also can be made via the Salvation Army’s Virtual Red Kettles, which launched in September.
As of Wednesday, Kona/West Hawaii’s Virtual Red Kettle was nearing $6,200, Hilo/East Hawaii was at $314 and Honokaa/North Hawaii’s had yet to receive an online donation. For more information, visit https://hawaii.salvationarmy.org/hawaii/redkettle.
In addition to donating at the red kettle sites, checks can be mailed directly to the nonprofit’s three island corps.
The Honokaa Corps address is 45-511 Rickard Place, Honokaa, HI 96727. The Hilo Corps address is 219 Ponohawai St., Hilo, HI 96720. The Kona Corps address is 75-223 Kalani St., Kailua-Kona, HI 96740.
Santiago requested West Hawaii donors mark the memo “Kettle Kick-off” so any donations can be counted toward the matching grant by Kona Tiki Hotel.
“I have to believe there are guardian angels out there to bless us,” she said.
Email Laura Ruminski at email@example.com.