Salvation Army kettle drive under way

  • Major Herb Thomas, left, provides an accompaniment as the Salvation Army Athol Corps kicks off its 2020 Red Kettle Drive. Left to right: State Rep. Susannah Whipps, Salvation Army board members Debbie Vescovi and Ruth Black, Major Nancy Townsend Thomas and board member Stephen Raymond. Staff Photo/Greg Vine

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 11/19/2020 5:16:16 PM
Modified: 11/19/2020 5:16:05 PM

ATHOL — While the official fundraising goal for this season’s Red Kettle Drive is more modest than in years past, the head of the Athol Salvation Army said the need for help this year is greater than ever. Major Nancy Townsend Thomas said the coronavirus pandemic has created an increased demand for the organization’s services. It has also required some new strategies for raising the cash it needs to assist the community.

Thomas said the sign on the tripod that holds the familiar red kettle will be printed with QR (quick response) codes allowing shoppers visiting the Orange WalMart store — the only location the organization locally this year — to use Apple Pay or Google’s GPay to quickly make a contribution. Naturally, anyone wishing to drop some cash in the kettle will be able to do so.

People wishing to exercise their spirit of giving during the holiday season can also go to, where they will be directed to a link allowing them to contribute. People can also text “Rescue Christmas 41444” to donate.

“If they want to send a donation to the Salvation Army by check,” Thomas continued, “we’re encouraging them to write ‘Salvation Army Athol’ and ‘Christmas Effort’ in the memo, or ‘Christmas Kettle,’ either one. That way, every cent will stay here in the Athol community.”

While the fundraising goal set for Christmas 2019 was $35,000, Thomas said this year’s target has been set a bit lower.

“We have a lofty goal of $25,000 — we hope to do over $25,000,” she said. “But that’s part of our budget for the whole year. It’s not just for seasonal help; that’s helping us get through the year. And after the kettles are put away, people are still in need.

“People are still needing food, they need assistance with rent, they need assistance with fuel oil. And we’re finding more people losing their jobs. And we know just from driving around the area, you see small businesses closing, not able to open, not able to offer enough hours to their regular employees. So, we’re trying to meet very basic needs.”

Thomas said the number of clients served by Athol’s Salvation Army has exploded in recent months.

“Just since March,” she explained, “we’ve helped over 2,000 households. Of those 2,000 households, 710 of them were new households who had never come into the Salvation Army before. That means over 5,000 people were served, 2,000 of them were new people who never required our assistance before.”

Thomas said while this year’s goal may be $25,000, the organization remains hopeful.

“As we worked on our budget for this year,” she continued, “it’s been during the time of the pandemic, so we took into account that it was going to be hard to attain that $35,000 we had hoped for last year. Twenty-five thousand is more attainable for us, but the need is much greater than $25,000.”

At an event kicking off the Red Kettle drive this past Sunday afternoon, Athol Savings Bank Senior Vice President Debbie Vescovi presented Thomas with a donation of $1,000 from the bank to get things started. Vescovi said the gift was presented as a challenge to other local banks and credit unions to match ASB’s donation.

State Rep. Susannah Whipps was also on hand for Sunday’s kick-off.

“When Sen. Gobi and I get calls asking for help with things like food, rent, heat — any number of things — we almost always refer them to the Salvation Army. Food insecurity is such a huge issue in our area, and they really do so much to see to it that people, especially the children, are fed.

“And housing is also an issue we’re facing more and more as people lose jobs or see their hours cut. The Salvation Army really is a God. They are one of the saviors of this community during this tough time.”

Anyone with questions or in need of assistance can call 978-249-8111. The Salvation Army Athol Corps is located at 107 Ridge St. and is open from 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesday and Friday.

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