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Bells ring, but red kettles slightly emptier this season

Saturday - 11/30/2013, 9:59am  ET

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A woman rings a bell to attract would-be donors for the Salvation Army red kettle program at the Giant on Westbard Avenue in Bethesda Wednesday. Donations are down so far this holiday season. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

Have you seen the Angel Tree?

WTOP's Mike Murillo reports.

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Washington - You can't miss the red kettles and bell ringers at stores around the D.C. area.

This is the biggest season for donations for the Salvation Army. But donations are down 9 percent from this time last year.

In 2012, the Salvation Army had collected $190,000 by this point in November. So far this year, the organization has collected $173,000.

"I think as the weather changes people get more into the Christmas spirit, and as they get closer to Christmas people tend to feel a little more giving," said Major Lewis Reckline, Area Commander for the National Capital Area Command of the Salvation Army.

Through the red kettle program, Reckline says they hope to bring in about $1.4 million for the metro area.

The federal government shutdown earlier this year could be reducing donations.

"There is some worry about what could happen next," he says.

The Salvation Army depends on the generosity of the public during the holiday season to fund nearly a year of work.

People can also help through the Angel Tree program, which brings gifts to area children in need. To see how you can help, go to http://salvationarmynca.org.

The Salvation Army helps to serve families in the D.C. area with financial aid for rent and utilities, as well as feed and help folks down on their luck, to back up on their feet.

"We help thousands and thousands of people, each month," Reckline said.

You might be one of the folks who feel guilty about passing a kettle without dropping money in the bucket. But Reckline doesn't want you to feel that way.

"The bell ringer isn't gonna be upset with you. We explain it to them that people give in a myriad of ways."

He says there is no need to try and avoid the bell ringer by finding another exit.

"I would love for you to give every time you walk by, absolutely. Do I expect it? No we don't expect it,'" he says.

As for the bell ringers, many of them are volunteers but some are in need of a little extra income during the holiday season, so the Salvation Army will pay some ringers to man kettles.

He says they are hopeful to reach their goal as the bells continue to ring at store entrances throughout the holiday season.

"Even a penny in a bucket, we appreciate," Reckline says.

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