Salvation Army bell ringers and their familiar red kettles are taking their places outside Whatcom County businesses - hoping to raise $175,000 by Dec. 24.
Those dollars are part of the organization's annual Christmas Campaign, which will include direct mailing with the goal of raising an additional $250,000.
The money will be used to help struggling Whatcom County residents, according to the head of the Salvation Army in Bellingham.
"There seem to be lots more people coming in, more families. It's sad but that's where we're at," Maj. James Lloyd said.
People who donated in the past have been asking for help this year.
"It's an ongoing trend right now," Lloyd said.
This year's campaign theme is "share your blessings, be blessed."
This year's $175,000 goal is higher than the $160,000 raised by bell ringers last year - thanks to the generosity of holiday shoppers.
The direct mail goal is the same as last year's.
The money will be used for programs and services that help the needy, including rental assistance, food through its food bank, bedding or clothing, and case management for those seeking a way out of their current predicament.
"There are a lot of good people," Lloyd said. "All they need is a simple hand up and maybe some encouragement."
Donations also help provide cheer during the holidays, including Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners as well as toys for children.
Lloyd said the level of help the Salvation Army can provide year-round depends on how much money is raised during the Christmas Campaign.
"If we do poorly then, unfortunately, that means there's going to be some things we're not able to do," he said, adding that the organization relies on the community "to help us help others."
Lloyd also is seeking volunteers for the Christmas effort.
To volunteer, call him at 360-733-1410.
Reach KIE RELYEA at email@example.com or call 715-2234.