By Beth Germano

HAVERHILL (CBS) — It’s an iconic sound and sight of the holiday season — the Salvation Army bell ringers raising money for their annual red kettle campaign.

It takes volunteers to collect every dollar, and the holiday season is the organization’s biggest source of funds for its social service programs.

But this year, volunteers are harder to find.

Major Walter Rivers with the Haverhill Salvation Army calls it the lingering hangover from COVID.

“We have older adults who used to come and volunteer, and can’t do it anymore because they’re worried about the effects of COVID and being out in public,” said Major Rivers.

This year, the Salvation Army needs many more volunteers to fill the bell-ringing shifts in Massachusetts.

On Wednesday, the organization served 300 Thanksgiving meals in Haverhill. But overall it’s been a struggle, with the pandemic largely to blame for an 85 percent drop in funds in Haverhill last year.

It’s a worry for Lauren Cogswell, who lost her job and relies on meals three times a week.

“It’s important to the community to get the resources that you can, and if they disappear, it makes it harder,” said Cogswell.

The Salvation Army says 82 cents of every dollar goes right back to the community where it was donated, which means some communities will be shortchanged in funding their programs.

“There will be gaps in coverage. We won’t be able to raise as much money. That’s less money that we can provide for service. So it’s a domino effect,” said Major Rivers.

Nothing says Christmas like the kettle, and he says volunteers would be the biggest gift of all.

If you’d like to volunteer, you can visit and

Beth Germano