LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The sound has become a holiday expectation: the bells of Salvation Army volunteers standing next to red kettles while partaking in a tradition over 130 years old. Now, technology is altering that sound.
Coins first dropped inside red kettles in 1891 through the campaign that has grown to garner $102 million in 2022 nationwide. In Clark County, Captain Ryan Bearchell of the Southern Nevada chapter said the few weeks of winter fundraising support operations long afterward.
“Even though you might only see the kettle for the season, the reality is that money is really helping throughout the whole year,” Bearchell said inside the nonprofit’s office Monday afternoon. “Every donation that we receive in Las Vegas stays here in Las Vegas.”
Feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and providing new toys for families that cannot provide their own during the winter holidays are just some operations he said benefit. However, those operations received less than expected after the last campaign season.
While the organization set a “shooting for the stars” goal of raising half a million dollars last year, Bearchell acknowledges only around $160,000 was collected in Clark County. This year’s goal has been trimmed down by half to $250,000 in response.
“Even somebody with the best intention, they may not have money in their pocket,” Bearchell said. “When this started a long time ago, collecting change was a lot easier because everybody carried cash. That was the only way.”
He points to “tough” times inflation has left valley residents as a reason for the decrease, but also the growing number of people who no longer carry cash since businesses are rapidly adopting cashless and contactless forms of payment.
Now, the ping of a phone may be the new coin-drop of the kettle.
Attached to the iconic red holders are now QR codes that allow people to donate through Apple or Google Pay. While that began within the past few years, select locations are now also rolling out TipTaps: portable card readers that allow those donating to tap the tip of their credit or debit card to donate like they were paying for a purchase at a store register.
Though the Captain is confident that the iconic red kettle and the nostalgic bell will likely never go away, he also says they’ve become more dependent on people “tapping in” to fund their operations annually.
“When we feel the effects of the economy, our jobs (increase) because you have more people who are now needing help that maybe last year or before, weren’t needing the help,” Bearchell said.
Bell ringers will be out in full force across Clark County starting on Giving Tuesday. While only select locations will have the TipTap option, people can donate to the Salvation Army of Southern Nevada year-round on its website.