Standing in front of the Giant on Baltimore National Pike in Catonsville, Tina Blum has heard firsthand the stories of those struggling in a down economy.
The Salvation Army bell ringer said people want to share their stories with her.
"A lot of people were coming up to me saying they lost their job, but now they got a job at the first of the year. I just like hearing the outcomes. It’s more than just giving. You've got to just listen to somebody too sometimes," she said.
In her two weeks working for the nonprofit organization's annual holiday giving campaign she said she has seen a lot of people walk by without a glance, but many drop what they can into the red kettles.
"They feel when they throw a penny in there—a penny goes a long way when they add up. I always tell them if you don’t have, give what you can give because god will bless you triple times for it," Blum said.
Across the Baltimore Area Command of the Salvation Army, donations are down while the need has increased. The organization is currently at 61 percent of its goal for the holiday season.
In Caroll, Baltimore, northern Anne Arundel and Howard counties, the organization had hoped to raise $600,000 through the red kettle campaign.
As of Thursday morning, the organization's most recent numbers indicated it would fall short.
During the Christmas holidays, the Salvation Army reports that it will help roughly 4.5 million people between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Barry Corbitt, a Salvation Army major, said the group needs the community's support in the final days.
"The Baltimore community has always supported the Salvation Army and we know they will come through as always. We are grateful for the benevolent kindness displayed by the citizenry of greater Baltimore," he said in an email.
The Salvation Army is an evangelical part of the Universal Christian Church, giving assistance to almost 30 million Americans each year. The organization has provided food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, clothing and shelter to the homeless and opportunities for children.
The red kettle tradition began in 1891 when Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee wanted to provide a free Christmas dinner for the poor in San Francisco. As he thought of ways to raise money, he remembered his days as a sailor in Liverpool, England.
At Stage Landing, where the boats came in, passers-by would toss coins into a large iron kettle called "Simpson's Pot." McFee borrowed the idea, placing a similar pot at the foot of San Francisco's Market Street. Beside it, a sign read "Keep the Pot Boiling." By Christmas, he had enough money to feed the needy, according to the organization's website.
Donations can be made online for the red kettle campaign. You can also donate by texting to GIFT 80888.
The organization is also in need of unwrapped toys for the annual Angel Tree program.
Toys can be dropped off at the main warehouse at 3800 Beuna Vista
Ave., Baltimore 21211 or at the Glen Bernie location, 511 S. Crain Hwy.,
Patch freelancer David Snyder contributed to this article.