Kettle drive loses ground in city

NASHUA – As the chimes of the Salvation Army’s bell-ringers start to sound this year, the annual holiday fund-raising appeal by the Christian charity is facing a setback.

The Salvation Army can’t set up its familiar red kettles outside Target stores because the Minneapolis-based company said it couldn’t allow the kettle drive to continue because it already bars other charities from collecting donations outsideits stores.

“It’s quite a disappointment,” said Salvation Army Maj. Carl Carvill, noting how Target shoppers are generous and contributed upward of $20,000 last year at the two stores in the city.

The Target Corp. has a “no solicitation” policy that must be applied consistently, according to a company statement.

Carolyn Brookter, a spokeswoman for the company, said in the statement that the company has been receiving an increasing number of requests for fund-raisers outside its stores. If the Salvation Army were allowed to continue, it opens the doors to other groups, Brookter said.

The company donates more than $2 million per week and has one of the industry’s largest corporate philanthropy programs, according to Brookter.

There still are 23 locations across Greater Nashua to donate to the Salvation Army in person.

And an effort across northern New England makes dropping money in the kettle even easier, as an Internet pilot program is expanding. The program allows donors to give money on the Web at any time, day or night, at

Locally, the Salvation Army started its annual fund-raising Friday. The group hopes to raise between $150,000 and $200,000 before the campaign ends on Christmas Eve.

The money helps with Christmas needs first, but stretches to assist yearlong services for people in need, from rent and mortgage assistance to after-school programs, Carvill said. Last year, the agency collected about $139,000, which helped more than 7,000 adults and children served by the Salvation Army.

And more volunteers are always welcome to help in the effort, Carvill said.

“It’s not glamorous, but it’s a wonderful thing to ring bells for the Salvation Army,” he said. “You get thanks for things you didn’t do.”

This year, every computer connected to the Internet can become a kettle.

Tom Fodor, development director for the Salvation Army in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont, said the effort is aimed at modernizing the fund-raising, but not replacing the kettles outside stores.

“This is not a reaction to anybody,” Fodor said. “This is something we wanted to do to get in the 21st century.”

Fodor doesn’t fear the new system will push out the iconic image of the bell-ringers and their red kettles.

“People like giving to the kettle,” he said. “It’s part of the holiday scene.”

Following a Salvation Army policy, the money from a particular online donor would go to that person’s local Salvation Army corps, unless the gift giver designates another recipient. The local corps gets 100 percent of the donation upfront, and then reimburses 10 percent to the divisional office in Portland.

Last year, kettles in northern New England raised $1.4 million, a 1 percent decline from the year before, despite growing restrictions on the group’s fund-raising, Fodor said. Last year, a pilot Internet program raised $3,000 in Vermont and Maine.

The online giving gives people additional opportunities to give to the kettle, but doesn’t compete with the traditional method, he said.

“I hope it complements it,” Fodor said.