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Salvation Army searching for bell ringers as giving season nears

Christian-based charity says volunteer numbers are down
Salvation Army starting annual holiday fundraising early due to impact of COVID-19
Posted at 3:36 PM, Nov 25, 2021

CLEVELAND — It's that time of year. Bells will be ringing across Northeast Ohio as the Salvation Army's red kettles will be out for donations.

But this year the faith-based charity is struggling to find volunteers. In a release to the media, the Northeast Ohio chapter of the organization said it hoped to raise $650,000 during the campaign.

"We have not been able to get regular workers to ring bells," said Linnette Gallimore, the head of operations at the Salvation Army's Harbor Light complex in downtown Cleveland. She said if people sign up for one hour it helps.

Gallimore said the low turn-out was because of the pandemic.

The kettles are targets fortheftsand there has been societal pushback on the organization's stance on the LGBTQ community.

Gallimore said everyone is welcome at the center. "We don't specialize in who we serve. We serve everyone."

Harbor Light is at the intersection of East 18th and Prospect. It is transitional housing for people leaving incarceration and the unhoused. It also has a women's and family shelter in the complex.

And for people like John Head Jr., the money raised during the iconic winter campaign meant a happy holiday.

"In the whole state of Ohio, there was no place for me," Head said. This Thanksgiving brought new things for him because it was "my 92nd day out of prison."

He spent 20 years in prison. Now, he's staying at Harbor Light as he reacclimates to the world.

"It's exciting, nerve-wracking," he said. "It's different ... It's hard to explain. I enjoy it."

A 2020 audit of Harbor Light showed, on average, 100 people stayed at the facility every day. On chilly holidays, there are usually more.

"It brings me joy," Gallimore said.

She said some of the money raised during the campaign will go to the daily operating budget for the complex.

It will also provide special meals on holidays like this for people like Head.

"They've been a big help," he said.

The Salvation Army is a Christian-based charity. There are several secular organizations that support Northeast Ohio including Toys for Tots, Goodwill, The LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland, and the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.