Salvation Army to test card readers at Dane County red kettles - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Salvation Army to test card readers at Dane County red kettles during holidays

MADISON (WKOW) -- It was Christmas in July for the Dane County Salvation Army earlier this year.  To cope with the recession, though, a red kettle campaign in the summer lasted twice as long as usual.

"We believe people will step up when there's a need, and obviously, there's a need this year," said Major Paul Moore.

When the holiday red kettle campaign begins anew on November 20, expect another change.  Five kettle locations will offer two options for people walking nearby.  They can pay traditionally with cash, or swipe a credit or debit card.

"We realize our society is going cashless, so that affects giving at our kettles," said Moore.

The locations that will try this new experiment will be at the East and West Towne JCPenny's, Macy's at Hilldale Mall, Miller and Sons grocery store in Verona, and Copps grocery store at Monona Drive and Broadway.

As always, money collected at the kettles will help fund about 30 programs that the Salvation Army runs.  Moore said the goal this holiday season is to collect $627,000.

The card readers are coming here after Moore noticed a test in other parts of the nation showed an increase in donations.  "The average seems to be about seven and a half times better for those people that give using credit cards, than if they put cash in the kettle," he said. 

The actual increase was from $2 to $15.    "So it's not big numbers, but we want to see what happens for us locally."

Moore also said about 40-percent more volunteers have signed up to staff this red kettles this year versus last.  He called it a sign that people realize the need this year.

Meanwhile, donations are also needed for Thanksgiving baskets at the Goodman Community Center's annual event.

"We have one turkey, she's in our freezer, and she's awaiting her friends," said Helen Hazelmare, Goodman's food pantry coordinator, speaking about the meal campaign that just began.

A drop-off site for donations is now set up in the eastside center's lobby.  Monetary donations can also be dropped off there, or through the center's website.

Along with turkey, organizers can use trimmings... even pie tins.  Typically, the goal is to offer one thousand meals each year.  This isn't a normal year.

"We actually registered on-site about a couple hundred more people than anticipated, but that's 2009 for you," said Hazelmare.

Registrations for Goodman's Thanksgiving meal pick-up is now closed.  Those still interested who missed the deadline are encouraged to call the Dane County United Way's 211 hotline. 

Hazelmare said, nonetheless, she is expecting more unregistered people than usual to show up on the days of the event, November 23 and 24.

"The need is growing faster than the donations coming in," she said.  "That's not just us.  That's everywhere.  So every little bit helps, especially for the holidays."

Email Carl Agnelly at cagnelly@wkowtv.com

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