Vail Valley Salvation Army sees fewer kettle collections, but you can donate with your phone |

Vail Valley Salvation Army sees fewer kettle collections, but you can donate with your phone

This is the most important time of year for contributions to the local nonprofit

Volunteers are essential to operations at the Vail Valley branch of the Salvation. Here, people from Vail Fire and Emergency Services, help organize items for food baskets.
Vail Valley Salvation Army/Courtesy photo

This is the most important time of year for the Salvation Army’s fundraising efforts. But the tradition of bell-ringing outside local stores has changed.

Tsu Wolin-Brown, director of the Vail Valley chapter of the Salvation Army, said collections are “way down” in the group’s red kettles. Fewer people carry cash these days, Wolin-Brown noted, adding that the area’s recent cold snap has hampered outdoor bell-ringing.

By the numbers

500: Approximate number of Thanksgiving food baskets delivered this year by the Salvation Army and its partners.
300: Approximate number of families matched in the Christmas Adopt A Family program.
247: Families went to the Holiday Cabin for kids’ gifts.
3.5: Full-time equivalent employees.
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But, Wolin-Brown said, other fundraising tactics are taking up some of the slack.

“We have to adapt to the times,” she said. “It seems like we don’t use cash as much, but everybody carries a phone.

At every bell-ringing station there’s a posted QR code that allows people to donate directly from their phones. Donations can be as little as $1, and as much as someone wants to give.

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Donations can also be made online at

The online donations are helping meet a local matching grant of $20,000. That matching grant started in early November and ends Dec. 31. About $7,000 has been raised so far, but Wolin-Brown noted that a lot of people make Christmas Eve donations part of their family celebrations.

However the money comes in, it’s important. Bell-ringing season brings in the most donations for the nonprofit. Those donations are used all year, for thousands of people in the Vail Valley.

Some of the Salvation Army’s most visible efforts are distributing holiday food baskets to families. The group also is a key member of the annual Adopt A Family program, which provides clothes and toys to families in need. There’s also a Holiday Cabin for kids, where parents can pick out two toys each for their children.

But the Salvation Army’s efforts extend throughout the year.

Wolin-Brown said the nonprofit through the year helps people with rent, or mortgage payments. Emergency aid often goes to needed medications, and hundreds of people every month get food from the food pantry in Avon. Wolin-Brown noted that 57 families came in Dec. 19. The Salvation Army pantry, and the Community Market in Gypsum, are stocked via cash and food donations, as well as contributions from local grocery stores.

All this work gets done with just 3.5 paid employees and a lot of volunteer help.

“We get a lot of bang for our buck,” Wolin-Brown said. “There’s a tremendous number of people we’ve helped.”

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