Salvation Army Christmas Comes Early

It doesn't look or feel anything like Christmas, but if you go downtown this week you might notice folks in Santa hats ringing bells for the Salvation Army. Laurie Johnson explains.
"Oh the weather outside is frightful..."

The weather may be frightful, but certainly not for the reasons Sinatra was singing about. Out in Houston's blistering July heat, volunteers and kids from the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club are ringing in donations.

"Thank you! God bless you! Thank you!"

Salvation Army Houston Spokesman Juan Alanis says they're calling it Christmas in July.

"You everybody knows what our Christmas campaign is with the bell-ringing and the kettles. We're bringing that out a little bit early this year just because we're faced at this time with a crisis that really is unprecedented for us where we are seeing a significant increase in clients and people that are coming to ask for assistance from the Salvation Army. At the same time some of our donors are not able to give what they have been in the past."

In fact, Alanis says so many people are in need of assistance that as of the end of June, they've served as many people as they did for the entire year in 2009.

"If that continues, by the end of this year we'll have served double the number of people that we served last year."

He says for the first time in their 121 year history, the Houston branch is turning people away.

"It's hard for us to do because we're not in the habit of turning anyone away. So to have to choose and have to tell individuals perhaps not this month, come back and visit us next month and hopefully we'll be in a better situation, that's just a tough thing for us to do."

Salvation Army branches in other cities have done Christmas in July fundraisers before, but Houston's never had to. Alanis says in addition to the red kettles, they're also asking people to text in donations and they've sent email and letter requests to their donor base.

"We're just hoping that we can raise as much as possible and that will allow us to at least serve all the people that come to the Salvation Army and not have to tell them to wait a month or tell them that we're not able to help them at this time."

Red kettle ringers will be downtown every day this week. They haven't set a goal for the fundraising effort, they're just hoping people will be in the Christmas spirit.

"Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow..."

Laurie Johnson, KUHF News.
Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...