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Salvation Army needs help to provide holiday cheer

A Salvation Army sign stands in the entrance to Fred Meyers at 10201 S.E. 240th St., in Kent on Dec. 10. - Charles Cortes/ Reporter
A Salvation Army sign stands in the entrance to Fred Meyers at 10201 S.E. 240th St., in Kent on Dec. 10.
— image credit: Charles Cortes/ Reporter

The Salvation Army bell ringers are out again with their red kettles and friendly greetings, but they’re not having much luck filling the kettles this year.

“Our kettle (revenues) are down in the South King County area,” said Lonnie Franklin, Western Washington field representative for the Salvation Army.

Franklin attributed some of the losses to the poor economy, and some to the fact that more shoppers today use credit or debit cards instead of cash for holiday purchases, leaving them no change to toss in the kettles.

In South King County in particular, Salvation Army lost a significant source of fundraising revenue when the downtown Kent Kmart decided not to let bell ringers come to its store this year.

“Kmart was always good for about $4,000 in that area, so we’re suffering,” said Franklin.

The kettle funds raised in Kent support year-round services offered by the Kent Salvation Army center. Those services include emergency assistance to families struggling to make rent or basic utility payments, as well as temporary lodging for domestic violence victims.

This time of year, the agency’s services also include a little extra help for the holidays: toys and food for families in need through the South King County Christmas Assistance Program.

“This year, we weren’t able to afford to purchase toys, so what we’ve opted to do this year is buy gift cards,” Franklin said of the Kent center. “We’re giving out gift cards for food and for toys to people who are coming in for assistance.”

The gift cards should cover the cost of one toy and some extra groceries at Fred Meyer.

Franklin noted that the Kent Salvation Army will have some toys on hand at the center to give out last minute. Most of those toys come from donations made at local Bartell Drugs and Fred Meyer stores, which serve as collection points for the Salvation Army toy drive.

“What we will do is, for families that come in late looking for Christmas assistance ... we will have toys available,” Franklin said. “But we never get enough.”

The deadline to sign up to receive help through the holiday program in Kent is Dec. 16. Franklin said the Kent’s Salvation Army center will continue accepting toys for the program through Dec. 18. Toys for children ages 3 through 12 are especially needed.

To donate to the Salvation Army’s Christmas program, bring a new, unwrapped toy to the donation barrels at any Bartell Drugs or Fred Meyer store, or drop off toys at the Kent Salvation Army center, 1250 Central Avenue S., Suite 245.

For more information, call the center at 253-852-4983.

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