The iconic Salvation Army bell ringers are out earlier than ever this year as the need for economic assistance only continues to grow.
The Salvation Army is trying to raise a total of $65,000 in Newton and Rockdale counties this year, up $20,000 from last year's goal, and, as a result, ringers are manning their stations two weeks earlier than normal.
The red kettles are the main source of funding for all of the Salvation Army's annual programs, including summer camp, Thanksgiving meals, assistance for utility bills, food, rent and medical bills.
"Basically that goal is the very minimum to do what we're anticipating. We've already exhausted our anticipated supplies for Christmas," said Chrissy Busbee, volunteer coordinator at the Covington office. "It's what we need to just barely make the budget work."
If the charity falls short of its goal, they will have to help fewer families.
According to the Salvation Army's website, the red kettle tradition started in 1891 and Busbee said that the charity's founder, William Booth, believed addressing physical needs was an important step in the process of converting people to Christianity.
Donations can be made at any of several kettle locations in Newton and Rockdale counties. In Covington, monetary donations can be made at the Salvation Army's local office, 5193 Washington Street Southwest, Kmart, Walmart and Kroger on U.S. Highway 278, Ga. Highway 20 and Salem Road.
In Conyers, kettles can be found at the Belks, Hobby Lobby, Kroger on Ga. Highway 138 and Walmart.
The Salvation Army is in need of volunteers to man the kettles, and any business or other organization can also request a kettle and place it outside its storefront to help in the fundraising effort.
Angel Tree program
The annual Angel Tree program, where people agree to buy Christmas present for a needy child, is also in need of a boost this year.
The Salvation Army took applications Thursday and is taking them Friday. However, the charity only budgeted to help 100 families, but it already filled its entire quota Thursday. Busbee said the charity is going to take more applications today but is going to need more help than ever to provide enough gifts for the children.
The trees will be located at the Covington office and at BJ's Wholesale Club and Cracker Barrel in Conyers. People can choose a child on one of the ornaments and then buy gifts for that child.
"We also fall short on this program," Busbee said. "That's one of the saddest things. We definitely need people to adopt these families."
Other assistance programs
The Salvation Army's food pantry has been void of food and closed for three weeks.
The Salvation Army currently can't provide any other financial assistance as it has no funds.
The only program that is in operation is a natural gas assistance program; however, it's only available for certain gas customers. Covington customers are not eligible. Call (770) 786-2107 to learn which customers are eligible.