SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- The Santa Maria Salvation Army says it is seeing fewer donations given at its famous red kettles during the holiday season.
"It is really slow this year with the donations," said Santa Maria Salvation Army Major Vicky Villanea. "I don't know the situation, but we can see every night with the kettle, it's very slow."
A reduction in donations in comparison to past years comes as the need for Salvation Army continues to increase.
Donations collected through the annual holiday drive helps fund a myriad of programs the non-profit organization provides for people in need.
"It goes to support the families," said Villanea. "We can buy food for the families. We can support the families and we really, really need the support for the families."
Now in its 131st year, the Salvation Army red kettle drive has been a staple of the holiday season throughout the United States for generations.
With its iconic red kettles and ubiquitous bell ringers, the fundraiser is a staple at shopping centers across the nation, including in Santa Maria.
Beginning in November, Salvation Army volunteers can be seen and heard outside Walmart stores, greeting shoppers with the familiar sound of bell ringing.
Other locations in the city have also hosted bell ringers through the years, including at Hobby Lobby this season.
Similar to Santa Maria, other Salvation Army locations across the country are also reporting a drop in donations.
A number of factors are being blamed for lower donations, including inflation, higher cost of living, fewer people carrying cash, and increased online shopping causing less foot traffic at brick-and-mortar stores.
"I think the economy is very slow right now for so many families," said Villanea. "I think the economy is that so many people don't have jobs and right now, it's very difficult."
With Christmas now only 10 days away, the Salvation Army is seeking a final push for more donations to assist the less fortunate in the community.
"If everybody can help to donate this year for the Salvation Army, we're struggling a little bit, so if we can get some more help with donations, it would be appreciated," said bell ringer Lori Martinez.