BELLAIRE The Salvation Army's signature red kettles may be getting a high tech upgrade next year. The mission has entered into a trial partnership with Smartphone to allow people to donate with a swipe of a card.
This year, a test case is being made at four cities: New York, Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco. The option may expand if the trial goes well.
Captain Louis Patrick of the Belmont County Salvation Army said the Smartphone initiative has potential to be a valuable supplement to their red kettle drive.
T-L Photo/ ROBERT A. DEFRANK
Charles “Elvis” Smith attends one of the Salvation Army’s traditional red kettles. The organization is also looking into the potential of Smartphone donations.
"If we were to have Smartphones, it would increase donations," he said. "These days, a lot of people are more likely to put it on a credit or debit card than drop a dollar."
He added that donors have often asked their bell ringers if they have a credit card option and they were forced to say no.
In addition, he noted Smartphone donations would also be more secure for those people attending the red kettles, an issue becoming more important in this area.
"Security is always a concern. We want to make sure everyone is safe and secure," Patrick said, noting a recent case in Arkansas where a bell ringer was shot and killed. "That's not the norm, but in these tough times people will do anything to get an extra dollar."
Patrick added that the kettles themselves will not disappear. He said the red kettle has been a symbol of the organization for more than 100 years and has stood as a simple but ingenious opportunity for people to drop their pennies, dimes and dollars in support of the mission to help the needy.
He added that the mission can also embrace technology and change.
"I believe this will work," he said. "I think it will be very beneficial to us to have that extra innovation."
However, the backbone of the mission will always be the volunteers.
"We have some really good guys doing really good work," Lewis said, adding that they will be seen at their posts despite the cold. "They love their job."
Kettles are at 15 locations with bell ringers stationed 10-11 a.m. and 6-8 p.m.
The giving tree has also been set up at St. Clairsville's Ohio Valley Mall. Distribution of foodstuffs is slated for Dec. 21 at that location.
Officials estimate the need this year will have increased by five to 10 percent. They estimate 600 families and 2,300 people. Meanwhile the donors list has shrunk. Lewis expects the donations to increase soon.
"As the cold weather begins, I think people's hearts will warm up," he said.
For more information, call (740) 676-6225.
DeFrank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.