VALDOSTA -- The Valdosta division of the Salvation Army is behind last year's red-kettle campaign pace by about $4,000.

"Two dollars is a lot to us," said Capt. Tim Farrell of the Valdosta division of the Salvation Army. "This Salvation Army has always struggled financially."

Farrell blames the decreased funds on chain stores nationwide banning bell ringers and a lack of volunteers to ring bells.

In Valdosta and across the nation, the Salvation Army is getting creative to try to make up for the lack of volunteers and lacking funds.

Holiday shoppers in many cities, including Valdosta, will see bell ringers that are made out of cardboard.

The cardboard standees that ring a bell and speak like their human counterparts have been used locally for about two weeks at Books-A-Million and Hibbett Sports, Farrell said, as well as Best Buy.

The standees are part of a matching program sponsored by Anderson Media Co., the parent company of Books-A-Million and Hibbett Sports, where the company will match whatever amount of money is in the kettle, Farrell said.

However, Farrell said that the standees still should not replace real volunteers because real volunteers can fill the kettles up faster.

"It is a lot easier to ignore a cardboard standee than it is an actual volunteer," Farrell said.

Also, in many cities the Salvation Army is using credit/debit card machines to get donations, but Farrell said those machines are not being used in Valdosta.

Next year, Farrell said he wants to get businesses more involved with the red-kettle campaign. He said he would like to see a program set up where businesses pay their employees to ring bells for the Salvation Army.

Farrell said volunteers are usually always better bell ringers than hired help.

"Volunteers do better because they're doing it for the right reasons. The door with the volunteer is going to wipe them out," Farrell said.

Also, volunteers are not paid, which helps the Salvation Army collect even more money, he said.

"Let's say we make $100 in a bucket," Farrell said. "Well, we come out with $100 but we have to pay that bell ringer $50. I want the Salvation Army to get all $100, so I want us to become all-volunteer."

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