The Salvation Army of Boyertown saw a greater need for services this holiday season and found new ways to connect with the community and raise funds amid a pandemic.

“The Salvation Army expected to see a greater need for our services – more than any in recent history and we experienced just that,” said Captain Joseph Smith, corps officer at The Salvation Army of Boyertown.

The Boyertown Corps serves more than 600 drive-thru lunches a week, up from 350 before the start of the pandemic. Another 450 people on average visit the Food Pantry, up 20 percent, according to a Salvation Army Boyertown release.

“This holiday season was different for us because the personal and fellowship portion was missing,” said Smith.

For example, The Salvation Army of Boyertown provided its annual Thanksgiving meal through a drive-thru event instead of an in-person gathering. Also, their Christmas Eve service was shared online instead of being held in-person. More recently, their Angel Tree toy distribution was conducted by drive-thru only.

“Our Red Kettles were not out in the community as much as previous years due to the pandemic,” said Smith.

Being the single biggest fundraiser for The Salvation Army, The Red Kettles last year nationally raised $126 million through 30,000 red kettles, with the Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Division generating more than $3.3 million. These funds support The Salvation Army’s activities, from meals and homeless shelters to disaster relief and addiction treatment, according to the release.

With concerns growing that COVID-19 would lead to a 50% reduction in donations to The Salvation Army’s Red Kettles this year, Smith and his team installed a 4-foot by 3-foot Red Kettle sign in front its headquarters in November. The idea came from the volunteers on the local advisory council, and the sign was built by church members Mark and Tracey Freece. The “real” Red Kettles were also seen out at various locations around the Boyertown area, staffed by an army of volunteer bell ringers.

“We had a very positive response to the large red kettle. This was our way of drawing attention to the Red Kettle campaign this year,” said Smith. “We feel that the Big Red Kettle was a great help in the fundraising efforts. We had an increase of kettle donations being dropped off at our facility. This was a great option for the community to donate in-person which provided us the opportunity to thank them personally.”

The Salvation Army of Boyertown also offered more opportunities for online giving this year.

“Our goal was $54,000 and we fell just a few thousand dollars short of our goal,” said Smith. “The community has been very supportive and generous to our organization. We are so blessed and grateful to their response in helping us provide immediate needs to our wonderful community.”

These funds support The Salvation Army’s activities and programs.

“Funds we raise through our Red Kettle Program help the community in many ways,” he said.

The Salvation Army offers financial assistance to individuals who need help paying their rent or utilities. Volunteers serve a daily meal, serving an average of 600 meals weekly. The organization serves a weekly food pantry, serving more than 1,600 individuals monthly. Their Canteen is heavily utilized in serving first responders during emergency events. Also, they offer support to veterans in our community.

For the holiday season, the Angel Tree Program provides an opportunity for low income families to register their children for Christmas gifts. Once registered, an angel tree tag is created and sent out into the community through various businesses. Community members take a tag and buy Christmas gifts for that child which are then donated as gifts. Volunteers then pack all the gifts donated and give them to the families for the children.

This year, The Salvation Army of Boyertown provided gifts for more than 200 children for Christmas. They also provided 230 families this year with Christmas food boxes with a turkey or a ham.

For more information about The Salvation Army of Boyertown, follow on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BoyertownSalvationArmy or visit https://boyertownsalvationarmy.com/.

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