Michaels: Go to the ATM and show some love for those ringing bells for the Salvation Army

If you haven’t taken a turn ringing the bells for the Salvation Army’s Kettle Campaign, I recommend you give them a call and sign up.

If you haven’t taken a turn ringing the bells for the Salvation Army’s Kettle Campaign, I recommend you give them a call and sign up.

There are all sorts of do-gooder reasons for it. But it’s the work they do for families that can’t really make ends meet at this time of year that gets me feeling verklempt and, in turn, motivated to don a goofy Santa hat that barely stretches over my giant noggin and ring bells.

There’s also the sheer joy that comes from ringing bells. Like Rudolph jacked up on a kettle-sized dose of caffeine I spread holiday cheer when I was up for my shift, earlier this month.

I’m pretty sure everyone but the nearby Walmart greeter who remarked upon my feverish bell ringing three times —”you really give those bells your all,” she said—was happy to get a little Christmas cheer as the season to be jolly got underway.

Beyond cheerful smiles, however, there was something else noticeable about my tour of duty.

There just wasn’t a lot of cash. Now, this isn’t to say that I didn’t make some—I did. I swear people liked my jingling.

But in a remarkably busy corner of the retail world, the one thing I heard more than anything else was: “Sorry, I just don’t have any cash on me.”

Some even gave me the additional courtesy of opening their wallets to reveal a cluster of plastic that just wouldn’t do much for the kettle I was jingling my bells around.

It wasn’t that surprising, then, when the Salvation Army Central Okanagan this week revealed they were  $325,000 behind in meeting their fundraising goal of $700,000. The funds help with the Christmas food and toy program as well as services throughout the year.

“We are one of the few organizations that hasn’t raised its fundraising goal in a market where prices are going up. This goal is the same as the last few years,” said Pastor Darryl Burry, executive director for The Salvation Army Central Okanagan. “With the increase of need to more individuals it becomes even more vital and urgent for us to reach this amount, if not surpass it, to sustain meeting needs throughout 2016.”

To adapt, they’ve gone online. You can go to www.kelownasalvationarmy.ca to donate to their online Kettle, go to any one of their thrift stores or donate at London Drugs.

What seems potentially better, however, is the adoption of the “dip jar”— a system that collects debit and credit cards at the kettle.

The argument for the changeover can be found in the Bank of Canada’s spring review. It addressed the use of cash in Canada, providing an examination of how cash transactions have been affected by the growing popularity of credit cards and debit cards.

In it they compared our use of cash in 2013, which is the most recent data, with 2009, and found that cash use in 2013 accounted for 44 per cent of the number of transactions, down 10 per cent since 2009. They also showed that populations less likely to use cash include young people and wealthy people.

The swipe system isn’t new to the local Salvation Army.

Debit- and credit-capable kettles are being adopted in the US, and, according to Pat Grimm, they’re already available in some parts of Canada. “They  tested it six years ago, but it was ahead of its time then,” she said. “We’re hoping it will roll out here next year. We agree. Times are changing, people don’t carry cash.”

So, convenience is coming.

While we’re waiting, though, maybe those of us who can should offer a little time to the campaign. Or, at the very least, head to an ATM and take out a little cash to spread across the kettles.

Happy Christmas—or whatever you celebrate!


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