SAN ANTONIO — The Salvation Army's biggest fundraiser of the year is facing challenges.
Their Red Kettle Campaign is dealing with a shortage of bell ringers. If sites go unfilled, that means critical funding for the organization could disappear.
For six years and counting, Rudolph Hernandez has served as a Salvation Army bell ringer outside the Hobby Lobby off 281 and Bitters.
"10 a.m. to 7 p.m. six days a week," said Hernandez. "I already know the regular customers at this store. They know me by name and I almost know them by name."
He's paying it forward.
"Many years ago I was struggling and The Salvation Army helped me out," said Hernandez. "I decided it was my turn to help other people."
This year, Salvation Army officials tell us many bell ringers aren't coming back.
"This year, the phone didn't ring. We didn't have the knocks at the door of people inquiring about that so much," said Brad Mayhar of The Salvation Army of San Antonio.
The lack of inquiries is creating a shortage of paid workers and volunteers.
"I think it's one of those things that you hear about everywhere where people just are having trouble finding employees for places," said Mayhar. "So we're no exception."
Mayhar says between San Antonio and New Braunfels, 100 bell ringing sites need staffing. When the bells are silent, year-round programs won't get crucial funding.
"That kid that needs a warm meal or that, you know, family that needs a warm bed at night or a safe roof over their head? It hurts our efforts to provide those things," said Mayhar.
For bell ringers like Hernandez, this role is rewarding. It's an experience that brings him back each year.
"If [volunteers] want to come out here and open up their hearts, they'll feel different," said Hernandez. "I plan to do this another six more years, God willing."
The Red Kettle Campaign kicks off tomorrow at area Walmarts and runs through Christmas Eve. Red Kettles can be found at most local Walmart and Sam’s Club stores, as well as Hobby Lobby, Bass Pro Shops, as well as select Walgreens and mall locations.
If you're interested in volunteering or applying for a paid position as a bell ringer, you can visit salvationarmysatx.org or visit The Salvation Army's main office at 521 W. Elmira. Paid positions earn $10 an hour, plus an opportunity to earn bonuses.
No minimum requirement is needed for volunteers.
You can also support the bell ringing season by donating, or being a virtual bell ringer to help meet fundraising goals online.