Following the “value…
Following the “values vote” on the last Election Day comes this values issue; Target won’t allow the Salvation Army to put it’s red Christmas kettles in front of their stores.

Salvation Army volunteers across metro Atlanta will be ringing their bells again starting Wednesday, calling for contributions to the annual holiday fund.

But the Army’s familiar red kettles won’t be outside Target stores this year, here or anyplace else in the country.

Target officials have told the Army they would strictly enforce a company policy against solicitation outside its stores.

In the past, Target had granted the Army an exemption. This year, because of the number of other nonprofit groups across the U.S. asking for spots outside the stores, the company decided to do what a spokesperson said is “fair and consistent.”

Local Army officials said while they understand Target’s decision, they will have to scramble to reach this year’s goal of $1 million in holiday kettle contributions in metro Atlanta.

Target has been the Army’s best location for holiday donations. Last year, the 25 Target stores in the Atlanta area pulled in $240,000 out of total kettle donations of $860,000, said George Hoosier, major general secretary for the Georgia Salvation Army.

There were 220 kettle sites in all.

“The loss will be hard to make up,” Hoosier said.

The five counties in the Army’s Atlanta unit relied heavily on kettle donations at Targets.

(Just as a clarification, George Hoosier isn’t a “major general secretary”, he’s Major George Hoosier, who holds the position of General Secretary for the Salvation Army in the state of Georgia.)

I grew up in the Salvation Army, and my parents were “officers” (i.e. ministers), now retired. However, my dad, a self-described “Christmas-aholic”, runs the kettle effort in Ithaca, New York, and I’d rung bells and played my horn at a kettle from at least 6th grade through college, and I’ve done so occasionally in the past few years even though my family and I attend another church.

Target has been one of the best places to put a kettle, and the loss of those locations means thousands upon thousands of dollars aren’t going to make it to the folks who need it. Unless, that is, we make an effort to overcome that potential shortfall. Instead of giving your child a quarter to put in the kettle, give him or her a dollar. Instead of just the spare change you got from your purchase in the store, add just a couple of $1 bills. Doubling your contribution from Forbes magazine shows the Army takes only 10% of the funds raised for expenses.)

In some places, it’s more than Target. Best Buy and Home Depot are also implementing this kind of policy. Instead of making choices, they’d just rather not get involved. And it may not be stopping there. K-Mart has been a great location for “bell ringers”, but Sears has a policy that keep the kettles away, and the two have just announced a merger.

But perhaps there’s more than just being “consistent” behind Target’s change.

Bell-ringers and red kettles are a familiar site around retail centers each holiday season. But some activists hope to put a dent in the collections of the Salvation Army for what they say are the religious charity’s anti-gay policies.

For the fourth consecutive year, the PFLAG [Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays] chapter in Genesee County, Mich., will protest the Salvation Army’s red kettle program, hoping their supporters will drop enough dollar bill-sized protest notes in the kettles to make an impact in the fund-raising, which brought in $93 million last year.

The Salvation Army says the protest has little, if any, impact, according to Maj. George Hood, national community relations and development secretary for Salvation Army.

“I’m not even aware of any protests that took place last year,” Hood says. “Nobody reported any significant impact at all.”

But the charity took a significant hit this week when gay-friendly retailer Target banned the Salvation Army from soliciting at its stores across the country, although store officials said they are only bringing the organization inline with its corporate policy banning soliciting at stores.

(Emphasis mine.) This isn’t proof of any connection, to be sure, but the misinterpretation of the Army’s stance on homosexuality does have the gay community up in arms. One wonders how much this fever spilled over into Target’s decision.

The Salvation Army offers health benefits to married heterosexual employees, their spouses, and children. Single employees are also covered, but no coverage is extended to domestic partners, regardless of sexual orientation, according to Hood.

Because the Salvation Army is a church and charitable organization, Hood says, it stands firm in its fundamental belief that homosexuality is not condoned in Biblical scripture.

“We have no stance against the gay community whatsoever,” Hood says. “There is a misinterpretation about what we are doing or what we are not doing.”

Homosexuals are trying to force a religious organization–a church in every sense of the word–to go against its own principles. How “tolerant” of them. And understand, too, that the Army’s charitable work is done for all, regardless of sexual orientation or any other factor.

So let me ask you to do your part and give just a little more this time. And you can even do it online. Thanks.

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