GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Salvation Army is busier than ever this holiday season as it works to help the less fortunate this holiday season. With the number of those in need continuing to rise in South Mississippi, the signature red kettles will be even more prevalent this year.
Lieutenant Ben Deule of the Salvation Army said, "Last year, we had a total of 17 locations; this year we've been able to drum up 35 locations. However, we're having a hard time getting our bell ringers to all those locations."
The Salvation Army is hoping the Christmas spirit will draw more people to its red kettle to give and to work. It pays some of its bell ringers but says it needs volunteers right now.
The Salvation Army points to the increase in need across South Mississippi for more kettle locations. It's trying to reach a goal of $150,000 this year in Harrison and Hancock counties. So far, it's raised about $60,000.
"The money that we raise during the holiday season goes to our effort all year long. It helps us provide food, housing and different things for families in this community throughout the year," said Deule.
Last year, the Salvation Army said its kettle campaign raised about $120,000. With more families signed up for holiday help this year, it said that $150,000 goal is an important one to reach. Bell ringer, Bridget Boehm said she's already seen signs that South Mississippi could get there.
"I've had so many wonderful, generous people. Every now and then, you'll see someone who looks like they don't have a dollar in their pocket, and they'll take out 15 cents and put it in the kettle. Every 15 cents count," says Boehm.
For more information on how to volunteer as a bell ringer, you can call 228-868-1188.
The Salvation Army is also pushing forward with its Angel Tree drive to help children in need across South Mississippi. To support a little angel in need in South Mississippi, you can stop by the Edgewater Mall display. Other stores across South Mississippi with angels for pick-up include Wal-mart, P.J.'s Coffee House and Gulfport Premium Outlets, formerly the Prime Outlets at Gulfport.
Besides stores, some apartment complexes are also participating. The deadline for the angel tree is December 15th.
The Salvation Army is also trying to make it a Merry Christmas for senior citizens across South Mississippi. Seniors 65 and older can stop the Salvation Army's Gulfport or Pascagoula offices on Fridays from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm through December 10. Seniors must have proof of residency and a valid photo id when they sign up.