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Salvation Army red kettles still take cash but now ‘Kettle Pay’

The sound of Salvation Army’s bell could be heard from the parking lot Friday afternoon outside the Hobby Lobby on North Rainbow Boulevard — signaling the start of the nonprofit’s annual Red Kettle Campaign.

Shoppers carrying bags of Christmas decorations slipped their change into the red kettle. But this year the Salvation Army is giving donors a new option.“Kettle Pay” lets donors give money with their smartphones using Apple Pay, Google Pay or through a QR code.

Patricia Collins dropped a few bills into the kettle but only after making sure she had enough cash for the bus ride home.

She said the Salvation Army of Southern Nevada’s mobile payment option will come in handy for future donations.

“I always donate. I donate to veterans, to SafeNest …,” Collins said. “It’s a good idea because I don’t ever have cash. I have to check and see if I have enough money to get back home.”

The digital donation option and the QR code are embedded in the Salvation Army sign above the red kettle.

Potential donors with at least a 2012 Samsung smartphone or an iPhone 10 or newer can pay using Google or Apple Pay while all smartphone users can use the QR code.

Once a donor has scanned their cellphone, they can select a donation amount of $5, $10 or $25, or input a custom amount. The one caveat is the money donated is funneled to the billing ZIP code of the donor, which could affect donations received by the Southern Nevada nonprofit.

“It’s an interesting dynamic, but (the) bottom line is whatever gets donated will be used to do the most good,” said Ty Baze, associate corps officer at the Salvation Army Southern Nevada. “You’re going to help the person that needs help, that doesn’t have food on the table for their kids, men and women in human trafficking to have a safe place to go or toy distribution where (kids) otherwise might not have a Christmas. I mean there’s a lot of things that this money goes to and it stays all local.”

Just a click

Baze, who will oversee 102 kettles in Las Vegas, said the key is making the donation process seamless.

“We have a shortened kettle season this year,” he said. “Thanksgiving is falling a week later … so it (gives) us a week less.”

Red kettles have started to blanket the valley this week as some stores, such as Hobby Lobby, are allowing the campaign to start early at their locations.

The campaign typically begins on Thanksgiving Day and runs through Christmas Eve. It’s the largest and longest-running fundraiser of its kind, and $142.7 million was raised nationally during the 2018 campaign, according to the Salvation Army.

For Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, the organization raised about $300,000, according to Leslee Rogers, the Salvation Southern Nevada Salvation Army’s donor and public relations director. She said the goal is to raise about $330,000 this season.

Among the retailers participating in this year’s campaign are Smith’s, Hobby Lobby, Walmart, Walgreens and Big Lots.

‘Big, darn deal’

Las Vegas resident Rosalina Ponce donated her change at the Hobby Lobby store and said the Salvation Army’s services helped her several years ago so she tries to donate every year, adding next time she will try using her cellphone.

“We do everything on the phone anyways,” Ponce said. “I would try it. Wherever I go, if I do have change, I donate.”

Even 9-year-old Christopher Torres made sure to donate, saying it’s because he likes “to help people.”

The Southern Nevada arm of the organization said the red kettle campaign makes up 17 percent of the money it earns through personal donations, making it “a big darn deal,” Rogers said.

Earline Scott, who was greeting Hobby Lobby customers as a bell ringer, said it was her first time working outside the craft store. However, Scott said she spent 10 years in the seasonal role while living in St. Louis, Missouri.

“People here seem to give a little bit more readily than St. Louis,” she said. “All I have to do is talk and they’ll just give. In St. Louis, they didn’t give as much.”

She said the new donation option has drummed up some interest from shoppers and she’s excited.

“No excuse,” she said. “They’ll be able to give now.”

Contact Subrina Hudson at shudson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @SubrinaH on Twitter.

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