“I enjoy the children the most,” he said.
The Salvation Army was forced to begin its campaign early this year because of lower than usual donations. The campaign usually begins the day after Thanksgiving, but the organization began early at the Broadway Square Mall and the two Chick-Fil-As on South Broadway Avenue and Troup Highway. Other locations will begin at the regularly scheduled time.
It's a two-part problem, said Chantel Millin, community and corporate relations coordinator for The Salvation Army in Tyler.
“It's an effect of the economy for sure,” she said. “But we've also had an influx of people who we're serving. We expect that number to go up for a while.”
The donations that the organization collects make up 25 percent of its annual budget, Ms. Millin said. That budget goes towards funding the programs that it offers, such as rent and utility assistance, food pantry, youth outreach programs, lodging and other services.
Davidson and others, who were out at the Broadway Square Mall and the two Chick-Fil-As in Tyler, are clients of The Salvation Army who were being paid by the organization for their time.
“I love it,” said John Massey as he rang the bell at his post at one of the mall entrances. “It's been steady so far, a lot of people have given.”
One of the people who dropped a donation in Massey's kettle was Leland Harris, 85, from Canton.
Harris didn't notice that the organization began its campaign early, but others have, said Charlie Creshaw, who rang a bell at another entrance to the mall.
“There's been a lot of giving today,” he said. “Some people have stopped and said 'You're out here early!'”
Creshaw smiled as passing children eyed the bright red kettle, and reiterated their importance to the campaign's success.
“I like it when people have their kids with them, because most of the time kids say to their parents, 'We've got to put some money in!'”
Davidson found the day to be a success at his Chick-Fil-A location, even in the early afternoon.
“I'm almost full, I'm probably going to have to call them to empty it soon,” he said as he peered into the kettle.
During the lunchtime rush, one person got out of their car in the drive-thru lane to donate to the kettle, Davidson said. He's not allowed to touch donations directly, he said, but he unhooked the kettle to collect other donations by walking from car to car.
Those who wish to sign up for a time slot to ring a bell can visit www.ringbells.org, Ms. Millin said.
“Low donations equate to helping fewer people and The Salvation Army refuses to accept that fate,” according to a written release from the organization on Friday. “The Tyler community and surrounding areas have always come through in a dynamic way for The Salvation Army and they are confident that this year will be no different.”