Monday, September 28, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 30

Santa Maria Sun / Spotlight

The following article was posted on October 29th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 35 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 35

The local Salvation Army changes the way it asks for money


Patricia Torres began her charitable work with the Salvation Army 14 years ago, serving hot lunches to the broke, homeless, or down on their luck.

The Salvation Army looks to revamp its donation model in time for the holiday season.

She’s been in Santa Maria the last six years at the organization’s 200 Cook St. location. But the Salvation Army and its mission have seen a dramatic drop in Red Kettle donations, shaking the nonprofit’s ability to offer services. 

The Red Kettle program brings in donations around the holidays every year through volunteers who solicit funds in front of stores by ringing a bell next to a red kettle. It’s served as one of the Salvation Army’s biggest fundraisers. 

Torres’ goal each year is to pull in more than $110,000 in donations, she said. Last year, the local Salvation Army raised a maximum of $72,000, continuing the downward trend that has buffeted the local branch with financial problems. That has forced the Cook Street center to close each Friday and reduce the number of staff from five employees to one. But they’ve been buoyed by a dozen volunteer staff who, Torres said, are committed to keeping the tradition of service stable.

“Being closed an extra day means there’s going to be someone who can’t get food that day or can’t get clothing,” Torres said.

The Protestant Christian organization and its mission began as the project of the London preacher William Booth in 1865. It eventually grew to a membership of more than 1.5 million with a presence in 100 countries.

Torres said the organization—locally and nationwide—is trying to find alternatives to its Red Kettle program. She suspects that the drop-off in Red Kettle donations is linked to the rise in online retail.

“People are buying online,” she said. “They’re not really going out to brick-and-mortar anymore.”

Now the entire organization is re-evaluating the way it raises money. That means investigating point-of-sale donations, where partner retailers offer consumers a chance to donate to the Salvation Army at the checkout. She said that avenue has been slow to materialize, but she noted that 7-Eleven has expressed interest in a partnership.

Another phase of the organization’s adjustment comes digitally. Last year, it implemented the Text2Give campaign, which encouraged donors to give money through text messages. This year, the church is adjusting the Red Kettle model so passersby can simply bump their phone on the famed red sign to offer a contribution.

“These millennials are very into helping the needy, but they have very different ways of giving,” Torres said. “Everybody’s on their phone or online.”

The Santa Maria branch is looking to staunch the financial bleeding to maintain programs like its four-days-a-week hot lunch. Torres said it serves somewhere between 90 to 150 people at each seating. The branch also offers clothes, a program that began for the homeless, but Torres said they noticed other needy and low-income families were struggling to access clothes, so the program expanded. Cook Street’s volunteers also offer DMV vouchers to waive fees for new licenses and a rental assistance program that people can apply to in case of emergency.

To keep it all going, they’re starting the donation period early. Torres said it usually begins the week of Thanksgiving, but this year it will start on Nov. 12 and end Christmas Eve.


• The Santa Maria Public Library, along with its Garden Club, will host an event on Nov. 2 discussing the importance of bees. The gathering will cover how bees contribute to the environment as well as beehive removal and relocation. The event will take place from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. in Shepard Hall at the library, located at 421 South McClelland St. For more information, contact the library information desk at (805) 925-0994, Ext. 8562.

• Santa Maria announced Oct. 25 that the city will be implementing a lottery for the sale of Safe and Sane fireworks starting for the Fourth of July 2020. In its announcement, the city said the “change will create a more equitable means for nonprofit organizations.” The city will hold a public meeting on Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. at the Minami Center, 600 W. Enos Dr., to inform nonprofits of the requirements needed to be eligible for the lottery. 

Staff Writer William D’Urso wrote this week’s Spotlight. Send your story tips to

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