By Justin Boron and Mike Davis
Chris Albritton and Josh Hicks sauntered past the Morrow Target recently in the absence of the ringing bell and red kettle that had greeted holiday shoppers in years past.
"(The bellringers) didn't bother me," Albritton said.
Since Target Corporation clamped down on its "no solicitation" policy this year, Salvation Army bell ringers have had to find other places to ring bells for donations.
"It's pretty sad on (Target's) part that they're not letting the Salvation Army do that here," Albritton said. "I guess that's corporate though."
Target Corporation said it reaffirmed the policy this year to move toward a more equal application of it. In past years, Salvation Army was given an exception.
"Target has implemented this policy in order to be fair to all the groups that request access to our stores and to provide our guests with a comfortable, distraction-free shopping environment," the store said in a written statement.
With 25 Target locations in metro Atlanta, the company's adherence to policy has opened a $240,000 gap in the amount of money that the Salvation Army expected to collect this year, said Carla Daniel, the Atlanta communications manager of the Salvation Army.
"We're just trying to think outside the box to look for different kettle locations," she said
Many of the kettles that would have been located at the region's Target stores have been shifted into downtown Atlanta, Daniel said.
The focus downtown is a return to Salvation Army's bellringing strategy of the early 90s, before people started moving out to the suburbs, she said.
"A lot of our board members missed seeing the kettles downtown," Daniel said.
In the wake of Target's decision, a Belk store near the McDonough Target has allowed the Salvation Army to ring their bells on Fridays and Saturdays, Service Center Director Tina Clark said.
"They let us come this year where they normally didn't," she said.
The Henry Service Center has about seven bellringers but is looking for many more.
Clark said Wal-Mart stores in Stockbridge and McDonough allow bell ringers as do Kroger stores. However, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores have reduced the time they allow the solicitations from four to two weeks.
Clark said the hoopla over Target's ban may have raised awareness of the Salvation Army. Collections for the weekend after Thanksgiving, she said, were up over last year's.
But Daniel said the impact of the ban will not be clear until collections end Dec. 24.
For more information about volunteering or sponsoring a kettle, call (770) 957-8868. Look up Salvation Army on the web: http://www.salvationarmyusa.org