H-SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY

Dec 10, 2013 9:36 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News

Bell ringers banned at two shopping centers

Salvation Army officials say money raised locally could be a little light this year. Two shopping plazas have banned the famous red kettles from collecting donations outside surrounding stores.

The complex owners say they've always had a no solicitation rule on the plaza grounds, but this is the first year they are actually enforcing the rule. It's all coming just as the Salvation Army's biggest fundraising campaign is getting underway.

It's that time of year when the Salvation Army brings out its shiny red kettles and puts the melody of the Christmas season in the air.

"It's a very unfortunate situation," said Salvation Army representative Henry Gonzalez.

That's because the owners of Five Cities Plaza in Arroyo Grande and the Williams Plaza in Paso Robles have said no to the bell ringers. The ban cuts into what the Salvation Army says could collectively be more than $40,000 in possible donations.

"In our case, it's very imperative because children depend on it and families as well," said Gonzalez.

Many in the community aren't happy about the bells falling silent or being termed a solicitor.

"Salvation Army is different than a lot of solicitors," said one local couple.

"Solicitors are people trying to sell you something and bell ringers don't sell you anything. They're just ringing a bell asking for donations," said another.

Salvation Army officials say 90 cents of every dollar donated goes to helping locals in need. Just these two plazas can represent as much as 50% of their entire yearly budget.

Gonzalez says the outcry has been loud and clear.

"It's so obvious," he said. "We even have people calling our phones every day, leaving messages saying, 'Hey, what's going on? I didn't see a bell ringer at your store. Is everything ok?"

KSBY reached out to the owners of both plazas who said they have no further comment at this time. They just said if they allow one solicitor they have to allow them all.

KSBY also spoke with Walmart inside the Five Cities Plaza who said they looked into allowing the bell ringers inside the store; however, for insurance reasons they couldn't make it happen.

If you would still like to make a donation, they are accepted online and at the Salvation Army offices, as well as a number of other shopping plazas. The Salvation Army office in Arroyo Grande is located at 1550 West Branch Street. Their phone number is (805) 481-0278. The Salvation Army office in Paso Robles is located at 711 Paso Robles Street. That number is (805) 238-9591.

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