'Won't be a human on the kettle:' Salvation Army greets holiday season with major changes to Angel Tree, Red Kettle Programs

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- The iconic ringing bell and red kettle bucket will be replaced with an unmanned kiosk amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Salvation Army is bracing for the holiday season with some slight twists to iconic programs and events to stop the spread of the virus.

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Tim Grider, the Corps Office Major at the Sandhills branch in Fayetteville, said the changes will be jarring for holiday shoppers.

"Certainly this will be the most noticeable change to the public, in general. There won't be a human on the kettle," Grider said. He went on to say that most of the unmanned kiosks will be placed inside the stores for shoppers to donate through card or physical change.

In addition, the general public can expect to see these kiosks ready to go a week and a half before Thanksgiving and be on display for most of the holiday season.

For the Sandhills branch, Grider said they're hoping to reach their $450,000 goal to sustain them for the next fiscal year. However, the Major said the current state of the economy is impacting their bottom line and leaving the goal up in the air.

Some other events seeing some change, because of COVID-19, include the Thanksgiving and Christmas meal drive. Grider told ABC11 both events, weather permitting, will be held outdoors and on the eve of both holidays, that way they can enforce social distancing.

Another event seeing significant change is the Angel Tree Program. Normally, shoppers would see a Christmas tree with name tags on display at a mall or shopping center, giving them the chance to "adopt a child or senior citizen" and purchase a gift for that individual.

In 2020, people wanting to give will have to request an appointment time with the Salvation Army through their website link or call 910-483-8119 (press 9). Applications for the Angel Tree Program will be open from Sept. 28 to Oct. 30. Grider says "they're contactless, we're trying hard to do that."

Grider says, as a result of the current economic climate, the Sandhills branch is heavily relying on sponsorships with companies and churches. Just recently, they've partnered with Manna Church to ensure they have help with their Thanksgiving meal drive on Nov. 25.

On top of the holiday season, Major Grider is expecting there to be plenty of families in dire need of help once the nationwide eviction moratorium is lifted at the end of the year.

"Moratorium is lifted on rent, utilities, and certainly for the internet for their kids. That's a bill that's going to come due for those families, and we know they're going to come our way," Grider added.
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