It’s the familiar sounds of Salvation Army bells at Christmas, but it’s a fundraiser like no other. For 37 years, The Salvation Army in Quincy, Ill., has teamed up with its local NBC affiliate (WGEM-TV) to host a weeklong Bucket Blitz.
The name says it all. Salvation Army officers, advisory board members, staff and volunteers grab a bucket and a bell and raise as much money as they can in just four days.
The blitz goes from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The goal is to raise $30,000 in those four days to support the annual Christmas campaign. Not knowing what to expect last year during the pandemic, the Bucket Blitz smashed its all-time record by raising $60,400.
The locations have changed over the years from a busy street intersection to a car dealership parking lot to the current location in front of the Quincy Town Center shopping mall. Bellringers fan out across multiple entrances to ring a bell and encourage drivers to roll down their windows and drop some money in their bucket. Some ringers even like to stand near the Starbucks and McDonald’s drive-thrus in hopes customers will throw some change their way on the way out.
If there’s a downside to the blitz, it’s the weather. Usually held the second week in December, chances are at least one of the days will be bitterly cold or there will be freezing rain or snow. But that doesn’t stop the bellringers. They just bundle up and grab a bucket and bell. A local camper dealership donates the use of a camper for a week that serves as the base of operations and a place to warm up.
“What’s really fun about the Bucket Blitz is that it has become destination giving for many people. They drive up, roll down their window, and they may drop in a few dollars, they may drop in a large check, or they may empty a jar of coins or the change in their console. The heavier the bucket the better, but it all adds up,” said Quincy Development Director Matt Schmidt.
While some new payment methods have been added, like Venmo and PayPal, most donors still prefer dropping cash and coins in the bucket.
The partnership with WGEM is what makes the blitz successful every year. WGEM-TV does live broadcasts during its morning, noon, 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. newscasts throughout the week as well as during its two-hour morning show each day. Besides promoting the Bucket Blitz, viewers and listeners also are learning about local Salvation Army services and how their donations are making a difference in the community.