DANVILLE — The next few weeks leading up to Christmas is the busiest – and the most important — time of year for the Danville Salvation Army.

This year’s Red Kettle Campaign, the Danville corps’ biggest fundraiser of the year, will start in earnest next week, and Major Jason Pollom seeks volunteers to ring bells as well as paid bell ringers during the busy holiday season.

The Danville Salvation Army’s overall goal for this year’s campaign is $85,500, which is a decrease of $24,500 compared with last year’s goal, and covers the local corps’ day-to-day operations for a year, including social services, programming, bills, employees’ pay, food pantry, Christmas baskets and clothing vouchers and helps citizens pay for utilities, rent or shelter and medicine.

Of the $85,500 goal, about $56,000 comes from the kettle donations, Pollom said. Mail appeals, grant money, United Way money and other donations make up the remainder.

One significant change in this year’s Red Kettle Campaign is in the way people can make a donation. Smartphone users who have downloaded the QR Reader app on their phone can use it to make a donation to the Salvation Army even if they do not carry cash.

“The kettles of the past aren’t going to be the kettles of the future,” Pollom said. “One thing we have to take into account is (the popularity of) online shopping. People aren’t going out (to the stores) as much, and people don’t carry change.

“Because of reduced locations and lifestyle changes, giving patterns have changed,” he said. “Now you can donate with ApplePay and GPay, or it takes you to a website where they can pay with their phone.”

To donate with a Smartphone, the user will open the QR Reader app and line it up with the QR code sticker on the side of the red kettle. The user will then be taken to an official Salvation Army donation website.

It is possible, though, that a Smartphone donation may not go to the Danville corps, Pollom said.

“When the change is dropped in the kettle, it goes directly to the Danville Salvation Army, but donations made by Smartphone will be determined by the donor’s home ZIP Code,” he said.

For example, Smartphone donations made by Danville residents who are shopping in Champaign will go to the Danville corps, he said.

“It just gives them another option to donate if they don’t have change,” Pollom said. “It was piloted last year in several metropolitan areas and has gone national this year.”

The corps at 855 E. Fairchild St., a United Way of Danville Area agency, hopes to sign up many volunteers to help ring bells and hire as many as 30 to 40 paid bell ringers for the Red Kettle Campaign that starts Monday and will run through Dec. 24.

“This year we lost about five to six kettle days because of how Thanksgiving falls,” Pollom said about this year’s late Thanksgiving. “With Walmart, we can’t start ringing until the day after Thanksgiving. Walgreens is the same way.”

The paid and volunteer bell ringers are needed between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. from Monday, Nov. 25 through Dec. 24 to man seven kettle sites around Danville and Tilton. The kettles at both doors of Danville’s Walmart and at the two Walgreens stores in Danville won’t be set up until Nov. 29, the day after Thanksgiving.

In addition to the Danville Walmart and Walgreens kettle sites, the other kettle locations this year will be at County Market on North Vermilion Street and in Tilton and at Big Lots.

Pollom said the number of red kettle locations has been dwindling in recent years.

“In my tenure with the Salvation Army, I’ve dealt with a shrinking red kettle location base,” he said.

As for the volunteer bell ringers, Pollom said a minimum two-hour bell-ringing shift would be optimum, but he would welcome volunteer help for any amount of hours.

The application process for paid bell ringers already has begun and will continue throughout the Christmas season.

Bell ringers will be paid $8.50 an hour on an as-needed basis between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

“I have 20 paid bell ringers, but I need 30 to 40 because you lose bell ringers to illness or family emergencies,” he said. “It’s not a full-time job, so you need more bell ringers to fill all the time slots.

“You can never have enough bell ringers,” Pollom added. “Life happens. Someone gets sick. You can’t leave a kettle without someone there.”

To help reach its goal, the Danville Salvation Army also is seeking community members to sponsor red kettles that entail signs with the names or logos of local businesses, churches or families being placed next to one of the corps’ kettles in exchange for a sponsorship donation or a match of the funds collected in the sponsored kettle on that particular day.

The Danville corps also seeks local businesses that will set out a mini red kettle on its counter for collections. The corps has six counter kettles, and so far two of them will be set out at the Casey’s locations in Ridge Farm and Chrisman.

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