Salvation Army launches `Christmas in July'

Temperatures may be in the 90s, and Santa is likely back at the North Pole, but for the Salvation Army, July is also a season for giving, especially in a tough economy.

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Maj. Jorge E. Diaz with one of the donation kettles. Photo by Vernon Clark

On Thursday in Center City, the Salvation Army will break out its bright red donation kettles, long a symbol of the Christmas season. The human services organization will launch only its second "Christmas in July" campaign to help Philadelphians meet basic needs this summer, officials said. The effort will place bell-ringing volunteers and the kettles at various locations in Center City each Thursday in July.

When the Salvation Army started "Christmas in July" last summer, "it created an awareness that folks are still in need throughout the summer months," said Maj. Jorge E. Diaz, general secretary of the Salvation Army of Greater Philadelphia. That awareness led people "to understand that the ministry and mission of the Salvation Army work throughout the year," Diaz said.

On Thursday, kettles will be at 2 Liberty Place at 1601 Chestnut Street; the Clothespin at 15th and Market Streets; and the Gallery at Market East at 901 Market Street. On July 8 they will be at the Clothespin and the Gallery. July 15 they will be at the Clothespin, the Gallery and the Bellevue Hyatt-Park at 200 S. Broad Street. On July 22 and 29 the kettles will be at the Gallery and the Bellevue.

Last year's "Christmas in July" raised $25,000 said Randall Thomas, a spokesman. Thomas said that because of the weak economy, the Salvation Army was facing a 30 percent increase in requests for basic assistance, such as food and clothing last July over the previous year. Requests this summer are up about 20 percent over last year, Thomas said.

"With the economy going the way it is, some food banks are closing down, social services are being cut in different places, so folks naturally turn to the Salvation Army. Diaz said.

In 2008, the Salvation Army lost some traditional funding sources, Diaz said. "We had to come up with a creative way of letting the public know that we really needed their support. So this was a creative way of doing it and getting people involved," Diaz said.