Published: Dec 02, 2010 6:49 PM EST
Updated: Dec 02, 2010 12:12 AM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - It's a desperate appeal for help this holiday season. Donations are down, need is up, and the Salvation Army is falling short of its Red Kettle goal. But there are several ways you can make a big difference, without even leaving your home.

Bell ringers outside grocery stores play a familiar jingle this time of year, calling shoppers to reach into their pockets and drop a few dollars or coins into the red kettle.

"It's not so much that all of us are doing well off, but there's always people doing worse off than us. We like to give, even if it's a buck, two, 50 cents, 75 cents, anything we can," Jack Riggs of Fort Myers said.

It's money that provides toys and holiday meals to families in need, and keeps crucial community support programs alive. "We have more people looking to us for help this year than they ever have," Maj. Tom Louden of the Salvation Army of Lee, Glades and Hendry Counties said.

But with just 2 weeks to go, Maj. Louden says they've only met 20% of their $550,000 goal.  They're $50,000 behind last year's total to date, while Collier County is short $15,000.
"With online purchasing, I think people are spending a little more time online and not spending the time in the stores where our Red Kettles have been traditionally located," Louden said.

For those inclined to do their shopping online, donations are just a click away. You can set up your own virtual Red Kettle and send it to friends, or post it on your Facebook page.

You can also text up to $10 at a time by sending "give" to 85944. Every penny writes success stories for people like Jack Orzechowski, once struggling with drug addiction, and now giving back. "I got involved with the church, and things just started to change pretty rapidly, and here I am," Orzechowski said.
If you decide to give using your cell phone, it's important to know all donations are allocated based on your area code. So if you want that money going to southwest Florida, make sure you're using phone with a 239 area code.