Thanks to COVID-19, the Salvation Army will have fewer places to ring the bell this year, and the amount of donations in those red kettles might be less than usual at a time of great need, one of its local leaders says.

“We can see the floodgates opening up,” said Capt. Scott McNeil of the Salvation Army’s Manchester Corps.

With people losing their jobs in the middle of a global pandemic, housing evictions might be around the corner, McNeil said.

Although there is a great demand for help throughout southern New Hampshire, he said kettle donations this year will likely be down. Operation “Help Rescue Christmas 2020” has begun, as the red kettles have already been stationed outside several area businesses, including Walmart in Manchester and several New Hampshire Liquor and Wine Outlets.

“We started on Nov. 12, and we will continue to be out manning the kettles until Christmas Eve,” McNeil said Thursday while outside the Bedford liquor store where a volunteer was collecting donations.

McNeil said some businesses that typically allow the Salvation Army to ring their bells decided to forego that tradition this year in light of COVID-19.

“Yes, we lost a couple of locations,” he said.

To make up for the loss of kettles, the Salvation Army decided to implement a virtual kettle drive. Although the organization attempted this once before a few years ago, it was not successful, McNeil said.

But now, with nearly everything being virtual in 2020, he is hopeful that the virtual kettle will be a good alternative for some individuals to donate.

Money collected from the red kettles is used throughout the entire year to help those less fortunate in nearby communities. It is also used to help buy Christmas gifts for families in need, Thanksgiving meals for those families who are hungry, medications and other medical expenses, according to McNeil.

“We are really grateful for every penny,” he said.

On Thursday, FEEDNH.org, the charitable trust for Great New Hampshire Restaurants, in partnership with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, presented a $20,000 donation to the Salvation Army to help kick off the kettle campaign.

Tanya Randolf of FEEDNH.org said Thursday that her organization was eager to give back this year, knowing that so many families rely on the kettle each holiday season.

“We also want to encourage others to do the same,” Randolf said.

To donate to the virtual kettle, visit give.salvationarmy.org/ManchesterVirtualKettle, or text “Kettles” to 91999.

Santa Fund virtual auction

The Salvation Army also is partnering with the Union Leader on the annual Santa Fund program, which helps buy toys and meals for needy families around the holidays. Visit UnionLeader.com/Santafund to participate in a virtual auction running through midnight Friday or to make a donation.

Checks can also be sent to The Santa Fund c/o New Hampshire Union Leader, PO Box 9555, Manchester, NH, 03109.