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Covering the Kettles

Target stores say no to Salvation Army Santas.



Holiday shoppers will no longer be able to unload their change and a little holiday cheer in front of Target stores. After many years of allowing Salvation Army Santas to collect donations in red kettles at store entrances, the retail chain is enacting a "no solicitation" policy for all of its stores, including the three Target locations in Memphis and the nearby location in Horn Lake, Mississippi.

Target Corporation's decision began making news across the country a few weeks ago, although the company notified the Salvation Army of its decision in January. Requests from other organizations for similar fund-raising campaigns led to the policy, according to the company. "If we continue to allow the Salvation Army to solicit, then it opens the door to other groups that wish to solicit our guests," said a written statement from the company's headquarters in Minneapolis.

The local red kettle donation campaign of the Memphis Salvation Army is handled by area commander Lt. Col. Danny Morrow, who has overseen kettle drives throughout the country for 40 years.

"The Target decision decreases our ability to serve people year-round," he said. "From the beginning, we understood that we were guests. We knew that it was their store, and we were always aware of that, but this is tough for us." According to Morrow, Target store collections account for 30 percent of the total red kettle drive, which raises about $200,000 annually in the Memphis area.

"I don't really know what to say about it. All I can do is encourage local Target management to contact the national office to get the kettles back," Morrow said.

Nationally, collections in front of Target stores have raised about $9 million for the charity, surpassed only by the $14 million raised in front of Wal-Mart stores. Collections at Kmart rank third with $7 million. Local Wal-Mart stores will allow kettle collections to continue outside its locations, but Super Kmart locations, which are the only type of Kmart stores in the Memphis area, will not. The Memphis Salvation Army has obtained permission from Big Lot stores to hold kettle drives this year. The closeout chain has four locations in the city but draws fewer customers than the Target stores.

Local Target store managers would not comment on the decision, referring all inquiries to the company's headquarters. Morrow said all negotiations with area stores are handled on the corporate level.

In addition to the Target locations, Memphis' Salvation Army holds kettle drives at approximately 40 locations throughout the city beginning the weekend before Thanksgiving and extending through Christmas Eve. In addition to retail locations, kettle volunteers position themselves at grocery stores and mall entrances.

"We heard about the decision here [in Memphis] in the late summer," said Morrow. "Not only does it hurt our collections, but the few people we hired to ring the bells to help them make at least some money are out of a job." The remaining locations will be manned in four-hour shifts by volunteers or the few paid employees that the organization is able to hire.

To supplement the lost collections, the Salvation Army will focus efforts on existing fund-raisers, including mail solicitations and Internet donations. Although Target has banned sidewalk solicitations, the company will continue its ongoing commitment to communities, donating more than $2 million each week to organizations like the Salvation Army.

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