December 8, 2009
The ringing bells outside grocery and department stores is a sign of the holiday season. It means the Salvation Army's Christmas Kettles are out and people can give money.
However, this year the Charlottesville Salvation Army found out they are not allowed at some of their usual locations. The bell ringers are banned at many CVS stores in the Charlottesville area, as well as Harris Teeter stores in the area.
Salvation Army commanders say because of fewer locations, they have raised less money compared to this point in last year's holiday season, a staggering $22,000 less.
"The Salvation Army does so much for the local population in terms of feeding and housing people in need, and some of those very same people are shopping in these stores," said Victor Millner, of the Salvation Army Advisory Board.
Here is the statement Michael DeAngelis from CVS sent to the Newsplex:
"Our non-solicitation policy applies to all organizations," said DeAngelis. "However, we work with the Salvation Army and other charities to ensure they remain a viable resource to everyone in the community."
Jennifer Thompson, a spokeswoman for Harris Teeter, said, "Harris Teeter does not allow outside solicitations in its Charlottesville stores. This has been our policy for years."
Thompson added, "Harris Teeter is working on getting a Salvation Virtual Donation Kettle up on our website. We hope it will be available in the next few days."
However, many locations are keeping the bell ringers at their stores. Kroger has a kettle stationed at all 120 of their stores in the district, and their customers seem to be embracing the campaign.
"We're getting great feedback. They like to support. A lot of people drop in loose change, some people come in just to give them $10 or $20 just because they can," said Kroger Store Manager, Josh Scott.
The Salvation Army has sought out other locations, but many have also said "no." Officials say they need businesses to step forward and give the bell ringers a place to collect donations.
"It's our hope that maybe other community and retail businesses will step up and take the place of some of these that can't help us now," said Millner.
The Salvation Army hopes to remind people of those in need during the holiday season by keeping the bells ringing around Charlottesville.
Harris Teeter and CVS are not alone when it comes to stores that ban Salvation Army bell ringers. It's been a longstanding policy at stores like Target and Best Buy as well.
Though workers at Best Buy tell us individual stores can ask for permission. The local best buy has asked for such permission and is waiting to hear back. But the controversy has sparked strong opinion.
Some shoppers we talked to had this to say.
"I'm not sure why some stores feel the need to not have the Salvation Army out there because there are a lot of people in need this Christmas and I think everyone can contribute," said shopper Kim Lindberg.
"People need help this time of year and I don't see what the problem would be with the jinglers being out in front of a store," said shopper Rebecca Robertson.
"I don't mind them, I know it's something they do every Christmas, I always feel bad when I don't have money to put in the tin," said shopper Eddie Noland.
Wednesday officials at Harris Teeter announced that the virtual kettle was up on their website for any customer who wanted to donate online.