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Salvation Army rolls out its red kettles with a new, tech-savvy way to donate

A tap is all it takes to make a contactless donation this holiday season.

WASHINGTON — The Salvation Army's red kettles and bell ringers are back on the streets. And this holiday season, there's a new way to give. No cash on hand? No problem. A quick tap of your credit card is all it takes to donate.

The 2021 Red Kettle campaign officially launched Nov. 12 across the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. As always, bell ringers are happy to accept cash. But this year, the Salvation Army is also making credit card donations easier through a pilot program with Visa. Those iconic kettles are equipped with a device that allows for instant acceptance of a contactless donation. Just tap your Visa card to a specified donation amount on the device, and you're on your way. The technology is the work of a Canadian company called Tiptap.

"We are grateful for the opportunity to team up with Visa for this year's Red Kettle campaign," said Major Mark Woodcock, commander of the Salvation Army's National Capital Area. "The Tiptap devices will make it easy for anyone low on cash to support our work in the community whenever and wherever they visit the Salvation Army's red kettles this season."

Like last year, safety protocols are in place. Red kettle volunteers will follow face mask and social distancing guidelines.

The Salvation Army receives donations year-round. But the non-profit organization says about 70% of the gifts it receives in any given year come during the holidays. Donations collected at the kettles support dozens of programs, including food pantries, treatment centers, emergency disaster support, shelters for people experiencing homelessness and youth activities.

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Requests for help have jumped significantly over the course of the pandemic. In its report for Fiscal Year 2020, the Salvation Army National Capital Area Command says its staff and volunteers assisted 3,474 families with rental assistance that protected them from homelessness, kept the heat and other utilities on for another 3,266 families and distributed more than 250,000 pounds of food to help families facing food insecurity.

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The Salvation Army says every donation provides help and hope to those in need, and all gifts stay within the community in which they are given.

For those unable to make a donation at the kettles, donations can be made online at www.salarmychristmas.org.

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