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Salvation Army In Need Of Red Kettle Volunteers As Donations Plunge In New York And Nationwide

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Salvation Army bell ringers are going all out to get customers over to their kettles this year as both donations and the number of workers are down.

On a bell ringing blitz to get his red kettle stuffed with cash is Chaka Watch, Salvation Army captain.

"I come from Zimbabwe. I'm a musician already. I sing. I enjoy dancing," Watch told CBS2's Dave Carlin.

He's been doing this 10 consecutive seasons, a legend at his spot outside Macy's Herald Square.

"It makes me happy because I'm making other people happy," he said.

But what he's doing so enthusiastically is now a very difficult position to fill for the Salvation Army.

"We are experiencing a real shortage in volunteers," said Major Kevin Stoops, Salvation Army general secretary.

A lack of bell ringers is causing red kettle income to plunge nationwide, down 14%. For New York, it is down 18%.

Reasons for fewer volunteers this year include fear of COVID and rising crime.

"We have so many places that we can have people standing, but we don't have the volunteers," Watch said.

Without quick, last-minute recruiting, places that use to be full of ringing and donating go silent, and less money gets raised for gifts, food, shelter, disaster relief, rent assistance and more.

"Please consider volunteering," Stoops said. "The training is a minute. Let's see you ring that bell."

With the bell ringer shortage and the dip in donations, the Salvation Army is struggling but hopeful this can be turned around.

"We reached out and we wanted to help right away," said Robert Jesberger, owner of Mid Island Collision in Rockville Center, Long Island.

This week, Jesberger wrote a check to the Salvation Army for $30,000.

"To put back into the community, to help those that do business with you, so that's the obligation that we have," he said.

The Salvation Army expects his generosity may inspire others to follow suit, just in time to save the season.

To find out how to volunteer, visit

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