New ways to give while volunteers are desperately needed to man Grand Rapids kettles

The iconic bell ringers of the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Drive will be able to accept more than just cash payments as the new Kettle Pay system goes into effect this winter.

According to a press release from the Salvation Army, “Kettle Pay is a set of digitally enabled tags (affixed to actual Red Kettles or Red Kettle signage) empowering non-cash-carrying shoppers to instantly donate via smartphone.”

The Salvation Army created the system as more people tend to carry less cash with them as they shop. Kettle Pay donors can “bump” via an NFC tag or “scan” a QR Code to pay with their smartphone. Payments can be made through Apple Pay or Google Pay. A receipt will be sent to the donor’s email.

“An NFC tag is a small, weather-safe smart chip that allows certain smartphones to snag digital information at a short range,” a Salvation Army press release states. “A QR code is a weather-safe custom image that, when scanned with a smartphone’s camera, immediately populates a specific website.”

Smartphones with NFC abilities include iPhone XS, XR, XS Max, 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max and most Android manufactured after 2012. Third-party NFC apps are also available with compatible smartphones.

“We are excited about the new giving opportunities that Apple Pay and Google Pay will provide for The Salvation Army and our iconic red kettles,” said Lt. Col. Lonneal Richardson, leader of The Salvation Army Northern Division. “This technology allows The Salvation Army and our supporters to adapt to an increasingly cashless society.”

“I believe the addition of the new Kettle Pay will be a success because of the prevalence and usage of technology. Apps almost everywhere are readily used,” Kathleen Saelens, Housing Case Manager with the Grand Rapids Salvation Army, said. “This first year may be slow, but I believe it will catch on. Tracking it from year to year we will be able to see how effective it is.”

Here in Grand Rapids, the Salvation Army has set a goal of $65,000 to raise through this year’s Red Kettle Drive. Itasca County residents will see 88% of those funds put back into the community here to assist those experiencing a crisis and need assistance.

As the only fundraiser of the year, it is crucial to have volunteers at the red kettles. The Grand Rapids Salvation Army is working diligently at recruiting volunteers right now. The first ringers started Monday, Nov. 25.

“We are in desperate need of bell ringers this season. As of right now we have 110 openings left to fill,” Saelens said regarding the Grand Rapids bell ringer needs. “With Thanksgiving being so late this year, we have lost a whole week of seeking donations at our kettles.”

To sign up as a volunteer bell ringer, call Kathleen Saelens at 218-326-5620 or 213-326-2694. Volunteers can also sign up through the website RegisterToRing.com, Here volunteers can select the date and time they would like to be a bell ringer in their area.

Red Kettles will be located at both SuperOne locations, L&M and Walmart in Grand Rapids. Bell ringers are at the posts from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Saturday until Dec. 23. Shifts at each location are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 12 to 2 p.m., 2 to 4 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.

Bell ringers will also be in Deer River at Cenex Super One and North Star Market Place Dec. 9-14. To register as a volunteers in Deer River, call Gwen Smith at 218-246-2180. Saelens noted that Bigfork is also in need of volunteers.

“Christmas is the Season of Giving and Sharing,” Saleans commented. “Please consider giving your time to those in our own community that are in need. Two hours of your time can go so very far.”

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