MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Those red kettles you see every holiday season need a little more love this year, with the pandemic pushing needs to new heights and reduced foot traffic.

The Salvation Army says the requests for food boxes are up tenfold since the start of the pandemic and needs across the country are up 15%, and at the same time their revenue from kettle donations could be cut in half.

And the Salvation Army is not alone; many organizations need help right now, and there are COVID-friendly ways you can give back this holiday season.

“With covid with the civil unrest and everything else that our community has gone through its more important than ever that we dig deep and take care of those in need,” Cub Foods CEO Mike Stigers said.

On top of masked bell ringers, you’ll also find new text and QR code payment options that reflect not just the changing times but the pandemic.

“Things are different but what feels really good is getting involved and helping,” Brandon Litman said.

Litman is CEO of the Kindly app, which connects volunteers with organizations in need. Litman said there are chances to volunteer from home.

“We’re doing a lot of virtual volunteering events, specifically letter writing to isolated elders. We generated over 1,000 letters to elders at Presbyterian Homes and Lyngblomsten,” he said.

If you can’t give time, think about donating items, like food to Second Harvest Heartland, which has seen fewer donations and volunteers as the need grows

“Hunger is surging in our state,” Megan Muske, chief development officer for Second Harvest Heartland, said. “We’re able to take your $1 that you’ve donated and turn that into three meals.”

Organizations like YouthLink are in desperate need of gently used clothes.

“What we had before? We don’t have that anymore,” Dr. Heather Huseby, executive director of Youthlink, said. “We’re desperately looking for coats, we’re looking for underwear, we’re looking for thermal underwear. The pandemic has caused a drastic increase in the need for clothing for youth.”

So look out for winter clothing drives, like the YWCA’s, which starts next month

“This year we’re also hosting a hat and warm sock drive the first two weeks of December to supplement the coat drives that other organizations are leading,” Kari Clark, chief development officer at YWCA Minneapolis, said. “Like everyone else, we’ve been significantly impacted by COVID in both how we deliver programming and in our revenue.”

The Greater Twin Cities United Way has some interactive donation ideas on its website, like making masks or assembling a flower pot for someone who is isolated right now.

The bottom line is this — your favorite organizations, the causes you’re passionate about could use a big boost this holiday season, however you’re able to give one.

“If you could get off the bench and you could actually support your neighbors in need I guarantee you will feel better about whats going on in this crazy volatile world,” Litmin said.

All of the organizations above still offer in-person volunteer opportunities if you are able. So if you’re interested, check with your favorite non-profit and ask them about their COVID safe options.

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Erin Hassanzadeh

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