Stores Silence Salvation Army Bells

ByABC News
December 9, 2004, 2:09 PM

DALLAS, Dec. 11, 2004 -- -- There are silent nights -- and days -- outside several stores this holiday season, but no more bells.

Several stores have decided to ban Salvation Army's fund-raising bell-ringers. The stores say shoppers shouldn't be bothered by requests for charity. Others wonder what's happened to the holiday spirit.

The Salvation Army's red kettle and bell are symbols of Christmas, dating back to the early 1890s, when the first kettle was set out in the streets of San Francisco.

Since then, the Salvation Army has provided a range of charitable services -- from food and clothing for the needy to emergency assistance. It may have started as just spare change, but the kettles now raise $93 million annually. During the Great Depression, the U.S. government sought the charity's expertise when millions were in need.

Recently, when four hurricanes slashed Florida this summer, the Salvation Army was among the first to help.

But this holiday season, Target, the nation's second-largest retailer, decided to strictly enforce a ban on soliciting: The Salvation Army is being turned away.

"This year, Target has been named as our Ebenezer Scrooge," says Randy Sharp of the American Family Association, a Christian activist group. "But I believe the ghost of Christmas future is going to catch up to Target if they don't reverse that policy."

The American Family Association has e-mailed its 2 million members encouraging them to shop elsewhere.

In a statement, Target says it contributes more than $2 million a week to charities -- but declined to discuss its no-solicitation policy on camera. The company says it needs to be consistent, sparing its customers a gauntlet of groups looking for a handout.