Salvation Army unit seeking volunteers for holiday Red Kettle campaign

Over 3,500 people are below the poverty level in Sagamore, Nordonia, Macedonia and Twinsburg, according to the 2021 U.S. Census. But there are many more who face economic and social challenges due to COVID-19 and inflation.

“Michael” was one of them. Colon cancer led to surgery and a mandatory 10-week recuperation period. He then lost his job and subsequently, his income. He soon fell behind with his electric bill. Already on an installment plan, he was now delinquent and unless the entire $400 balance was paid, the service would be disconnected.

Not knowing where to go, he called the Salvation Army as a last resort.

The NE Ohio Service Unit of the Salvation Army worked with the electric company and paid the outstanding balance. As a result, Michael’s service was kept on and he was eligible to resume an installment payment plan.

On a macro level, the Salvation Army is America’s largest social services provider. In 2022, it had more than 1.7 million volunteers, provided over 8 million nights of shelter to the homeless and served almost 156 million meals.

It functions on a micro level by working on-site where people live. In Sagamore, it relies on a volunteer service unit of three: Jim Lang, Jeffrey McCandless and Van Carter.

“Our clients come from a wide range of occupations, ages and backgrounds. Our focus is not limited to helping a current need, but we also want to help with a strategy to avoid a repeat situation, such as developing a monthly household budget,” said Jim Lang of the NE Ohio Service Unit. “We stand ready to help anyone who needs it. We do not require proof of income, do not analyze cash flow and do not examine financial assets.”

To provide this help, the NE Ohio Service Unit depends 100% on locally raised contributions for its operating capital.

“It’s important to understand that money raised in your community, such as Sagamore, stays in your community,” said Jeff McCandless, Salvation Army Volunteer.

The pandemic made it difficult to obtain volunteer “bell ringers.” This led to reduced collections and made it necessary to hire more paid bell ringers, which increased expenses. The result was a deep reduction in net funds available to help people in Northeast Ohio, especially Sagamore.

“That’s why, this year, we are asking local organizations, employers and government units to help,” said Van Carter, volunteer treasurer for five service units. “As a business, church or civic organization you can adopt the kettle for a day or more and have your staff take shifts, or you can be an individual volunteer for a two-hour shift.”

In addition to economic assistance, the Salvation Army provides a wide range of social services including multiple food pantries, clothing, educational and financial planning.

This year’s Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign runs through Dec. 24 (excluding Sundays). Donation sites are at local Giant Eagle, Hobby Lobby, Walmart and Acme stores.

If you or someone you know living in Sagamore needs help, call 216-554-5057. To volunteer to “ring the bell,” drive, or offer other help, call or text 216-532-3343. ∞

Photo: Volunteers of the Salvation Army Hudson Service Unit (l-r) Jeffrey McCandless, Van Carter and Jim Lang call for community bell ringers. Photo submitted.