Bath resident and The Salvation Army volunteer Amy Bennett ringing the bell outside of Walmart in Brunswick on Dec. 16. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

The Brunswick-Bath branch of The Salvation Army fell nearly $24,000 short of its red kettle fundraising campaign goal this year.

In an interview on Thursday, Brunswick-Bath Salvation Army Lt. Neil Childs said that the campaign closed out at just over $36,000, well shy of its $60,000 target.

“The biggest issue we had throughout was the fact that like most places in the area we were unable to get anyone to come out and work,” said Childs. “And when we’re competing against places like McDonalds that are offering $18 an hour verses our $14, it’s a little tough.”

In years past, Child said there were typically eight to 10 workers and another four to five red kettel volunteers on a single day. This year, there were three workers and between three and four volunteers.

The Salvation Army is an international Christian organization that provides social services and operates retail stores selling donated goods. The local branch’s budget is roughly $500,000, which Childs said is funded through donations and some grants. The red kettle money goes toward the organization’s social services, which include heating, utilities and rental assistance as well as a food pantry.

Childs said staff is reviewing its total donations for the holiday season to figure out how far behind the organization truly is. Once that is determined, Childs said cuts to some programs will be made if necessary.


“We expected a definite decrease from last year, just not this much,” said Childs. In 2020, the Brunswick-Bath branch, which serves 19 communities on the Midcoast, raised $53,000 toward a $70,000 goal through the kettle campaign.

The labor shortage continues to be a challenge for employers both locally and nationwide. There were approximately 10.7 million job openings in the third quarter of 2021, according to Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which is about 3.6 million more than same quarter in 2019.

Other Brunswick, service-based nonprofits like Tedford Housing, Oasis Free Clinics and the Independence Association have also reported difficulties with hiring.

The Portland Salvation Army was also unable to meet its red kettle goal of $140,000, raising just under $117,000.

“With the amount of spots that we left uncovered for the entire season, to have come up with $117,000 really speaks to the generosity of the public,” said Portland Salvation Army Capt. Michael Harper.

Like the Bath-Brunswick division, Harper said that staffing shortages and competing with the hourly wages being offered at the local mall were the biggest challenge. Usually, 20 to 25 bell ringers are hired in Portland, but this year it was closer to six or seven.

In 2020, the Portland branch was able to meet its goal of $140,000. The annual budget in Portland is around $1.5 million, and the funds raised through the red kettle drive are used to pay for social service programs.

Harper said that the Portland Salvation Army will likely look to another fundraising activity to make up for the loss.

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