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During pandemic, charities try to sustain this holiday season

(The Center Square) – The coronavirus pandemic is putting a strain on charities this holiday season.

The Salvation Army reports donations from their Red Kettle campaign, which accounts for 70% of the funds they raise for the entire year, are down across Illinois.

Katie Heinz, a spokesperson for the Salvation Army’s Metropolitan Division in northern Illinois, said there are a variety of reasons.

“I think we have had less kettles out this year due to the closing of some retail stores, less foot traffic, and also fewer people signing up to ring the bell this year,” Heinz said.

Major Dan Leisher of the Salvation Army of McLean County said the consumer shift to credit and debit cards hasn’t helped.

“People probably are not carrying as much cash as they used to, so its those same challenges we face almost every year,” Leisher said.

Leisher said there are now virtual kettles online to allow people to donate. You can also go online at RescueChristmas.org. The holiday campaign runs through January.

Food banks in Illinois are seeing an increased need. Organizers are now seeing former donors needing food. Pantries have seen a 60% increase in demand this year.

Toys for Tots campaigns around the state also faced challenges because of the pandemic. Nicole Arseneau with the Kankakee County Toys for Tots campaign, said they usually help 3,000 to 4,000 children each year. This year, the need skyrocketed to nearly 10,000 children.

Ceasar Perez, coordinator of the Champaign County Toys for Tots campaign, said their toy requests increased by 60% this year, and with around 20 toy boxes in the community instead of the usual 150, this year has been a challenge.

“Because of COVID, we had very few collection boxes around town because a lot of restaurants and businesses were closed or ordered shutdowns,” Perez said.

Perez added that some late donations came in, allowing them to make sure all the kids will have toys this Christmas season.

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