BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — "This year has been extremely tough not only for the community but it’s been tough for us as well," said Kevin Pope, captain of the Salvation Army here in Bakersfield.
He said the organization has seen an increase in demand for their services during the pandemic.
“Our food pantry has been extremely busy. The need for rental assistance, the need for utility assistance. Just the need for all the different things people are coming to us for," said Pope.
But the Salvation Army is facing some struggles of its own.
“We lost half our store locations that our traditional bell ringers would be at," said Pope.
Usually there are around 20 bell ringers collecting donations for the Salvation Army throughout Kern County, but with the need for social distancing, Pope said many businesses have decided to pause in-person solicitation this year. Now, there are only eight bell ringers.
“We look to raise $120,000 a year with our red kettle campaign and that’s with 20 red kettle sites out for, you know, five weeks, and so it’s definitely going to be a struggle this year," said Pope.
Without that money, services like the food pantry and homeless shelters are more difficult to provide, but Pope said despite these challenges, the Salvation Army is determined to continue supporting Kern County.
“We’re still here, we’re still serving and we’re trying to, you know, meet that need," he said.
Pope said the best ways to help the Salvation Army are donating online or providing Christmas presents for children in need through the Angel Tree program. You can also volunteer to be a bell ringer. Click here for more information.