Unmanned red kettle stands are another sign of tough times for the Tamaqua Salvation Army. Despite many contributions from the community and other organizations, donations and volunteers are down greatly this year for the organization's annual red kettle fundraising campaign.

"We only have seven days left for our red kettle campaign, and we are only half way to our goal," Major Sharon Whispell of the Tamaqua Salvation Army said.

"During the evening hours, from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., we only have three out of 10 locations manned Monday to Saturday."

The Salvation Army recruits volunteers every year to stand or sit at a red kettle located at a number of local businesses to ring a holly bell and collect donations from caring passers-by.

Locations where kettles are posted and volunteers are needed include the Wal-Marts in Hometown and Lehighton, Big Lots in Lehighton, Redner's Warehouse Market in Nesquehoning, Jim Thorpe Market, Boyer's Food Market in Lansford and Tamaqua, Hometown Famer's Market, and others.

The holidays are the peak time for the Salvation Army Corps red kettle campaign, the primary fundraiser for the corps. In addition to the usual charitable holiday expenses, funds are also raised during the kettle drive to cover many of the Salvation Army's year-round expenses, such as building maintenance, heating, social services, food, programs, disaster services, and the few paid staff.

"We can only afford to pay a few staff. The need for volunteers is greater now than ever," Whispell said.

The Tamaqua Salvation Army offers many year-round programs and benefits, such as monthly food offerings, church services, food, toys, clothing, emergency hotel vouchers, seasonal heating and rental assistance, meals, senior and youth programs, financial education classes, computer classes, facilities for community events, and many other community-oriented projects.

Last year, the Tamaqua Salvation Army directly provided more than 3,000 social services to residents living in Eastern Schuylkill and Carbon counties. That number only reflects documented assistance, and doesn't represent other free services like disaster response, community meals, food baskets, food vouchers, church services, community involvement activities, and various other youth and senior programs routinely offered by the Tamaqua branch.

Whispell stressed her appreciation to the people, organizations and United Way that have already and routinely contribute their time and money to the corps.

If any person or organization wants to volunteer an hour or so by standing at a Salvation Army kettle, call (570) 668-0410 or stop by the Salvation Army, located at 105 West Broad St.

The last day to volunteer at a kettle is Dec. 24.

"The Salvation Army runs primarily on volunteers," Whispell added, "and we are asking anyone to give just a little bit of their time to help our Salvation Army better help the community. Our community has needs, and we need to fill those needs."