SWFL Salvation Army falls behind fundraising goals as it lacks volunteers

As a person walks towards the entrance of the Publix grocery store at Colonial Crossing in Fort Myers, he or she will be greeted by the ringing of a bell by a volunteer who is decked out in Santa gear, along with the pleasant well wishes for a merry Christmas.

These familiar sentimental sounds by Salvation Army volunteers are intrinsic to the holiday season.

“It’s really become a holiday icon,” Major Tim Gilliam said, of the Salvation Army.

But this year, that nostalgic ringing is a bit quieter around southwest Florida.

“We average about 60 kettle locations a day,” Gilliam said. “About half are manned by volunteers right now.”

The Salvation Army is searching for assistance all across the state, including in Lee, Hendry and Glades Counties. The non-profit organization is short on volunteers by about 50 percent.

It is a serious problem for less fortunate recipients, as it is amidst in the biggest campaign of the season. Due to a later start date than normal, southwest Florida’s Salvation Army is already behind about $100,000.

“We’re talking about any number of services,” Gilliam said. “A great amount of service that will not be able to be provided because we’re short that money.”

For the previous five years, Bob Cline has not missed a chance to volunteer with his church. He loves to stand next to that famous red kettle.

It is volunteers like him, the Salvation Army said, translate into thousands of dollars redirected back into our community.

“It’s just really important,” Steve Mijokivoc said, a congregant of Peace Lutheran Church. “It gets people in the spirit.”

They hope that next time someone hears the iconic ring, the person will throw in what he or she can. And maybe think about ringing the bell themselves, too.

Reporter:Brooke Shafer
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