Let’s Rescue Christmas By Kenneth G. Hodder
Here’s how we’re saving Christmas from COVID!
As COVID-19 began to dominate headlines early this year, I knew requests for help would grow exponentially higher. But I confess that I underestimated the unprecedented impact it would have on every single aspect of our mission. We exist to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human need in His name without discrimination, and COVID-19 quickly became a formidable strain on the resources needed to fulfill our purpose.
The pandemic immediately threatened our most vulnerable neighbors: those experiencing homelessness. More than 550,000 people who were homeless had added risks of isolation; chronic medical issues; and limited access to proper hygiene, updated information, and medical resources. Across our shelters, we increased cleaning efforts, modified operations to allow for social distancing, provided education to our clients, implemented COVID-19 testing, and created safe spaces for those needing quarantine.
And then COVID quickly tightened its grip – eliminating jobs, closing schools, threatening housing – driving a spike in requests for help, particularly from families and individuals who had never needed assistance before. To see so many people needing food (forming lines that were sometimes miles long at our facilities) was a sobering reality. Our response changed almost daily, and it continues to evolve across our 7,600 centers of operation as we navigate this unknown storm.
Understandably, there was a correlated increase in operational costs to meet that increased need. At the same time, the loss of revenue from our thrift stores, uncertainty of government relief, and cancellations of local fundraisers made for a true crisis. As requests reached record levels, our ability to meet that need was being threatened – and many of the people who would typically donate to us found themselves suddenly at risk themselves.
And we didn’t see the need slowing down. In fact, based on our initial service levels, we anticipated a 155 percent increase in need during the Christmas holidays compared with previous years. Add to the mix the closure of retail stores, less foot traffic by shoppers who are limiting their trips or buying online, people carrying less cash and coins, and the need to social distance, and we had to ask ourselves: What would happen if the 30,000 Red Kettles that are typically out in November and December became casualties of COVID-19?
By June, it became apparent that we had no choice but to rethink our fundraising, specifically our annual Christmas campaign, because our commitment to help others will never be in doubt. We read in Philippians 4:19:
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
And with that faith, we decided to do something unprecedented. We would ask the generous public to help us “Rescue Christmas” for the tens of millions of individuals and families who will knock on our doors. Together, we will ensure that no one seeking a meal gets turned away, that no one who needs shelter sleeps on the streets, that not a single child goes without presents on Christmas morning.
For the first time in 130 years, we started our holiday fundraising earlier (in September) to give us more time to raise the necessary funds and spread the message of hope. Of course, bell-ringers will still be out, wearing personal protective equipment, following strict guidelines for cleaning, social distancing, and allowing donors to give digitally through Google Pay and Apple Pay. But to rescue Christmas, it will take more than coins in a kettle. Donors can now:
- say to their Alexa device, “Alexa, donate to The Salvation Army”;
- text “Kettle” to 91999;
- donate through the mail; adopt an Angel – in person or online thanks to our friends at Walmart;
- or enlist in Love’s Army at rescuechristmas.org by giving a recurring gift of $25 a month to ensure help lasts all year long.
We believe that the public wants to help, so it is our job to give them every safe and easy opportunity to do so. Their generosity provides the most priceless gift of all: hope.
And with hope, I believe Christmas can be bright for millions of families in need.
Kenneth G. Hodder is the national commander of The Salvation Army USA, the largest social services organization in the country. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Hodder previously served as the territorial commander of The Salvation Army’s USA Western Territory.
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