Salvation Army seeks community's help

·7 min read

Nov. 30—DANVILLE — For the next few weeks leading up to Christmas, the Danville Salvation Army seeks the community's help during its busiest and most important time of the year.

This year's Hope Marches On Campaign, the Danville corps' biggest fundraiser of the year, kicked off on Veterans' Day on Nov. 11.

"It is our holiday fundraiser to raise money for those in need during the holiday season and throughout the upcoming year in Vermilion County," Melissa Wilhelm, special events and development coordinator, said.

Volunteer bell ringer Danny Crouch, a Danville Lions Club member, was manning the kettle in front of County Market in Tilton on Black Friday, traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year.

Despite the chilly temperature that morning, Crouch enthusiastically rang the bell and greeted every customer entering the store.

"This is my third or fourth year volunteering as a bell ringer," Crouch said, adding that he will be ringing bells for two hours a day on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays for the next four weeks.

Many people stopped to deposit a donation into the kettle, and some shared their philosophy on giving.

"I put money in everywhere I see a kettle," said Larry Acord of Grape Creek.

Tiffany Parrett of Danville said she comes prepared to make a donation when she goes out shopping.

"I take the money out of my (car's) cup holder when I see them," she said.

Tilton resident Stella Christie said, "For the Salvation Army, I do a one-time $20 to $50 donation."

J.R. Stonebraker of Tilton said, "Whenever I go to the store, I try to put in some money."

Crouch said every time he volunteers to ring bells for the Salvation Army, he is overwhelmed by the support he sees from the local residents.

"In the time I've been doing this, I'm amazed at the generosity of the community and the caring and concern they show," he said. "If it helps one person, it's worth it to me."

Seeking bell ringers

The Danville Salvation Army at 855 E. Fairchild St., a United Way of Danville Area agency, hopes to sign up many more volunteers, like Crouch, to help ring bells during the campaign that will run through Dec. 24.

More than 1,650 volunteer hours are needed to fully support all the kettle locations in Vermilion County for the season, according to Danville Corps Major Jason Pollom.

"We're barely 30 percent staffed with a combination of volunteer and paid bell ringers," Wilhelm said.

The Salvation Army has made it easy for individuals, families, organizations and church groups to sign up for a time to ring bells by going online at and using Danville's 61832 ZIP Code to access the local schedule.

"When they go on the website and type in the ZIP Code, it will pull up locations, days available and shifts available," Wilhelm explained.

Volunteer bell ringers are needed between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday all the way through Friday, Dec. 24, to man seven kettle sites around Danville and Tilton. The kettles are located at Big Lots, both doors of Danville's Walmart, both Walgreens stores in Danville, and the County Market stores on North Vermilion Street and in Tilton.

A minimum two-hour bell-ringing shift would be optimum, but volunteer help for any number of hours is welcomed.

In the past, a few local organizations have made a friendly contest out of bell ringing.

"We're definitely encouraging that — competition among the organizations," Wilhelm said. "We are also encouraging people to send photos of their bell-ringing efforts to our Facebook page, The Salvation Army of Vermilion County."

Ways to donate

The Red Kettle Campaign has evolved during the last few years with the addition of new ways to make a donation by using one's smartphone at outdoor kettle sites or by creating a virtual kettle online.

"Money raised at the iconic red kettles is critical because it supports so many services provided to the most vulnerable in the county — not just around the holidays but throughout the year," Wilhelm said.

Smartphone users who have downloaded the QR Reader app on their phone can use it to make a donation to the Salvation Army even if they do not have any cash.

"We know a lot of people don't carry change anymore," Wilhelm said. "There is a QR code on every kettle that they can hold their smartphone up to."

To donate with a smartphone, the user will open the QR Reader app and line it up with the QR code sticker on the side of the red kettle. The user will then be taken to an official Salvation Army donation website. New kettle pay options include Apple Pay, Google Pay, Venmo, and Paypal, and it even will accept crypto currency.

It is possible, though, that a smartphone donation may not go to the Danville corps, depending on the billing address for the cellphone.

When change is dropped in a kettle in Vermilion County, it goes directly to the Danville Salvation Army. Donations made by smartphone will go to the Danville Salvation Army if the cellphone bill is sent to a Danville mailing address.

For example, smartphone donations made by Danville residents who are shopping in Champaign will go to the Danville corps.

"The QR code is specific to the Salvation Army, and the donation will go to the Salvation Army closest to the billing address ZIP Code of the cellphone," Wilhelm said.

Another way to donate that is contactless is to create a virtual kettle online for a business, church, school, group, family or individual, and then share the link a few times before Christmas to help raise funds for the Danville Salvation Army.

"People can go online to the Danville Salvation Army's website at, and they can create their own virtual kettle," Wilhelm said.

Counter kettles, sponsors

The Danville Salvation Army also seeks community members to sponsor red kettles that entail signs with the names or logos of local businesses, churches or families being placed next to one of the corps' kettles in exchange for a sponsorship donation or a match of the funds collected in the sponsored kettle on that particular day.

In addition, the Danville corps seeks local businesses that will set out a mini red kettle on its counter for collections or affix a temporary sticker with a QR code to the back of a cash register that will allow customers with a smartphone to make a donation.

"Last year we only had one counter kettle out, but so far this year we have five businesses with counter kettles," Wilhelm said.

"I'm going out to meet with some more business people and approach them not just about the counter kettles, but also about the virtual kettles," she said.

"I have stickers they can put on the back of the registers," Wilhelm added. "It's non-intrusive and doesn't take up any space. People can just scan the QR code while they are standing there."

Donations stay local

The Danville Salvation Army's overall goal for this year's campaign is $110,500, which covers the local corps' day-to-day operations for a year.

The local corps serves more than 8,700 individuals in Vermilion County each year by providing critical services that include food; shelter; and help with utilities, rent and clothing for veterans, the homeless, the elderly, children, families and individuals.

In addition to year-round services such as the twice-weekly food pantry, the Danville Salvation Army conducts seasonal services, such as a winter coat distribution, Christmas food baskets, and a large Christmas toy initiative through which hundreds of toys are collected at Angel Tree locations, including Walmart, and then given to children in need in conjunction with Toys for Tots.

Of the $110,500 goal, it is hoped that about $32,500 will come from the kettle donations, Wilhelm said. Mail appeals, business sponsorships, virtual kettles and other donations will make up the remainder of the goal.

"People always want to know where their money is going and how their money is spent," she said. "Eighty-two to 84 cents of every dollar goes back to the community.

"Vermilion County is such a pleasure to work in," Wilhelm said. "I'm impressed with the people of Vermilion County and the eagerness of them to get involved with organizations such as Salvation Army."

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