JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Salvation Army red kettle and its bell ringers are holiday season staples, but many storefronts in Johnson City are quiet this December.
The worker shortage that has affected so many other businesses is also affecting the Johnson City Salvation Army during their annual red kettle campaign, one of their biggest fundraisers of the year.
Captain Antwann Yocum said that only five of the 22 Johnson City Salvation Army locations had a bell ringer on Wednesday.
“It’s an issue that all sectors are experiencing,” Yocum said. “Though we are the Salvation Army, we’re not immune from that, so we’re really struggling with that.”
During the holiday season, the Salvation Army relies on a mix of seasonal workers and volunteers to fill shifts at grocery stores across Johnson City.
Yocum said the full-time bell ringer position is a good option for anyone wanting to earn a seasonal income.
Shirley Bowman, one of the few seasonal workers, rang outside the Browns Mill Road Wal-Mart on a chilly Wednesday afternoon. She said it has been tough to see so many storefronts without a bell ringer this year.
“It kindly hurts because we need all the help we can get,” Bowman said.
Yocum said fundraising efforts are reliant on the seasonal workers because they can work throughout the day. Volunteers often only work on the weekend or weeknight evenings.
“We start putting our bell ringers out at 10 a.m.,” Yocum said. “That’s a long span of time where we could potentially have opportunity to raise funds. Right now, we’re not able to do that.”
The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the most important fundraising period for the Salvation Army. It provides the funding for year-round services like shelter and food for the homeless and financial assistance for the needy.
“Most folks find a part of their Christmas tradition is giving and putting into the red kettle because they understand that the red kettle stands for so much more than their individuality,” Yocum said. “It stands for the community.”
As of Wednesday, Yocum said the Johnson City Salvation Army had raised “about 50 percent” of it’s red kettle goal. He said Johnson City alone typically raises over $200,000.
If you would like to volunteer as a red kettle bell ringer, you can sign up here.