As people walked into Davenport’s NorthPark Mall, they heard the familiar tinkle of a bell.
As John Shelangouski, 47, of Davenport, rang the bell Friday night, a girl put a dollar bill in the kettle at his side.
“Thank you and Merry Christmas,” Shelangouski told her.
Inside the mall, representatives of the Salvation Army of the Quad-Cities kicked off the 2012 Red Kettle campaign with Christmas music provided by Bee Sharp, a group of male vocalists from St. Ambrose University in Davenport.
“This year’s goal is $725,000,” said Maj. Gary Felton, the Quad-City coordinator for the Salvation Army. Last year’s goal of $700,000 was exceeded by $20,000, he added.
The Salvation Army receives 60 percent of its annual funding from the Red Kettle campaign, he said.
“We’re going to need to meet this goal in order to continue providing the services we offer,” Felton said.
Many families and organizations have been hit hard by the higher prices of utilities and groceries over the past several years, he said.
The Salvation Army is no exception.
“We need people to fill the kettles,” Felton said.
During last Christmas season, the organization gave away 2,100 food baskets to needy families, 5,000 toys to needy children, and more than 4,000 clothing items, Felton said.
He added that 150,000 meals were served last year, while 44,000 nights of shelter were provided to the homeless and addicted community members.
Juliann McHard, chair of the Salvation Army’s advisory board, said volunteer bell ringers are desperately needed.
“About 50 percent of the bell ringers are paid,” she said. “We are trying to make this an all-volunteer force so we can put that money toward our programs.
“I’m told by the folks who do the counting that we need 1,000 more volunteers this year,” she said. “When a business gives us a space to put up a kettle, we need to have someone there to work it.
“Many of our volunteer bell ringers are not just one-time ringers,” she added. “They find it rewarding and come back.”
But more volunteers are needed, McHard said.