Salvation Army facing critical shortage of bell ringers

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – During its busiest season, the Salvation Army is facing a Christmas crisis. The organization says it is in desperate need of bell ringers in central Indiana. In fact, the problem is so bad, the Salvation Army could lose out on thousands of dollars in donations it doesn’t have the manpower to collect.

Officials at the Salvation Army said every year they expect to see a drop of about 10 percent in the number of volunteer and paid bell ringers, but this year is worse than usual.

All around town, you’ll find spots where the ring-a-ling of Salvation Army bells is no more.

“You’ll see a lot of our stands across the city without a bell ringer or a bucket present,” said Andy Amick of the Salvation Army, who said they’re off this year by about 3,400 man-hours leading to more empty stations.

Some are staffed by volunteers and others by paid workers.

“We’re still kind of in the neighborhood within a few hundred hours as far as volunteerism,” said Amick, “[but] our paid ringers that work for us have dropped off drastically.”

One local expert says the strong economy may be the reason.

“A lot of people already have full-time employment,” said Bill Rieber, an economics professor at Butler University.

He said with an unemployment rate around 3 percent in Marion County, fewer people are looking for work and those that are can be choosy.

“But given the other employment opportunities, ringing a bell in the cold winter days is not that attractive,” said Rieber.

Retailers were expected to hire about 700,000 seasonal workers this year, but many stores are also relying on employees they’ve already got.

“A lot of the retailers like Walmart, they have part time employees during the regular year,” said Rieber, “and they’re offering those part time employees more hours during the holiday season.

Not the best news for nonprofits like the Salvation Army, who are still hoping for a successful season.

“There’s a lot of time to make up, and we make the majority of our kettle money [during] that week right before Christmas,” said Amick.

Given how late it is in the season, the Salvation Army is no longer accepting applications for paid bell-ringing positions. However, they are still looking for volunteer positions. If you would like to be a volunteer bell ringer you can visit their registration website, or if here if you’d like to make a monetary donation.

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