UPDATE: Belk changes mind about Salvation Army bell ringers - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Belk changes mind about Salvation Army bell ringers

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: Belk has decided to lift its ban on the Salvation Army's bell ringers after hearing from customers, but officials say it's already put the local chapter behind during what is shaping up to be a challenging fundraising season. 

Belk officials tell Channel 3 the company chose to support a different charity this holiday season, closing its stores to red kettles. Now, three weeks into the Salvation Army's campaign, the department store is changing its mind.

"The Salvation Army has stood outside of Belk collecting red kettle donations for a number of years," Kimberly George of the Salvation Army said.

Kimberly George said Belk's decision to not allow red kettle bell ringers outside Belk stores this year hurt the organization's Christmas fundraising efforts. 

The local chapter has partnered with three Belk locations in the past. 

"Last year we raised just over $8,000 just at the Belk locations alone," George said. "So you can see, if we are not allowed to ring there that is quite an impact." 

The Salvation Army kicked off its Red Kettle Campaign on November 17th.

The organization said losing Belk's support cost them about a million dollars nationwide in donations. 

Monday, Belk welcomed the kettles back.

A spokesperson for Belk released the following statement to Channel 3:

"The Salvation Army Bell Ringers have been a fixture at some of our stores for decades. With this holiday campaign, we were hoping to drive awareness and fundraising for the important work of Habitat for Humanity, but when our customers speak, we listen. Our customers have been loud and clear about their passion for the Salvation Army. We have had a long relationship with the Salvation Army and they are absolutely welcome at all of our 294 stores. The Salvation Army was always going to be a part of our community strategy in the future, we are just making sure they are part of the present as well," said Andy Izquierdo, Belk Vice Pres. of Communications & Community Relations. 

Kimberly George says the local chapter has to catch up. In addition to the Belk loss, the local chapter suffered a theft last month outside a Food City.

"I'm so glad that they're listening to their customers and that communities all around America love the Salvation Army so much," George said. "We're excited about that, but again we're looking at the next 20 or so days of ringing bells, and we really need your help." 

Angel Tree adoptions are also down. George said 225 angels were not adopted this year, leaving the organization to rely on red kettle donations to meet the need of children and senior citizens in the area. 

"This year we're a little bit behind where we were last year with red kettles and so every place that says no creates a bigger challenge for us," George said. 

If the local chapter can't catch up, it's possible they may be forced to turn families away. George is hopeful red kettle donations will pick up between now and Christmas to help them meet the need. 

Officials said the red kettles will be visible now through December 23rd where folks can continue to donate.  This year some red kettles will have credit card options as well.   


PEVIOUS STORY: Belk will have Salvation Army bell ringers outside their stores this holiday season.

The company had announced that the bell ringers would not be present this year.

Belk heard a lot of complaints from customers about their decision to put all of their efforts into supporting a different organization this year, meaning that the Salvation Army would not be sponsored.

"With this holiday campaign, we were hoping to drive awareness for Habitat for Humanity," a Belk spokesperson said. "But when our customers speak, we listen. And our customers have been loud and clear about their passion for the Salvation Army."

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