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Salvation Army sees increased demand while donations are expected to drop

Donations to the nonprofit’s hallmark red kettles could be down as much as 50% this year due to fewer people out shopping.

Carey Ferrantelli of the Salvation Army rings a bell for donations near Millennium Park on North Michigan Avenue on Monday. 
Carey Ferrantelli of the Salvation Army rings a bell for donations near Millennium Park on North Michigan Avenue on Monday. 
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

The Salvation Army has seen a fivefold increase in need at many Chicago-area facilities that offer clothes, food and shelter and officials worry demand will increase further after a moratorium on evictions in Illinois ends next month.

“We are experiencing levels of poverty that are much higher than across the country,” Alisa Rodriguez, deputy commissioner of homeless services for the city’s Department of Family & Support Services, said at a virtual news conference Thursday with officials from the Salvation Army.

Rodriguez said nearly 20% of the city’s residents live below the poverty line and the unemployment rate in Chicago stands at about 13% compared to 4% last year.

“There is a grave concern in the city of Chicago for the impact that evictions will have on our residents,” she said.

A statewide ban on evictions ends Oct. 22.

The time of need comes as the Salvation Army anticipates as much as a 50% reduction in donations during the upcoming holiday season’s “red kettle” fundraising campaign that accounts for a majority of the nonprofit’s budget.

“A drop in half would limit our ability to provide services to the most vulnerable, because nearly 70% of The Salvation Army’s donations are made during the Christmas fundraising campaign,” Salvation Army spokeswoman Katie Heinz Pfingsten said.

She attributed the anticipated drop in donations to the closing of retail stores, consumers carrying less cash and coins, and a decline in foot traffic.

A community center in Englewood that’s seen a fivefold increase in demand at its food pantry is one of 28 such facilities grouped together by the Salvation Army in a region that spans from Rockford to Lake County, Indiana.

“This is an unprecedented time of need,” said Lonneal Richardson, who oversees the region for the Salvation Army.

The red kettles were briefly brought out Monday downtown along Michigan Avenue. The fundraising effort, titled “Rescue Christmas,” will begin in earnest Nov. 9. The Salvation Army is urging people to donate online in the meantime.