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No cash? Salvation Army now accepting mobile donations

CHICAGO — Carolyn Harper made her pitch for donations to the Salvation Army with a smile on her face and a bell in her hand, trying to convince shoppers along Chicago’s busy Michigan Avenue that there was “no line, no wait.”

Despite her prodding, half a dozen people apologetically explained they had no cash to drop into the bright red kettle. Most passed on before Harper could explain there’s a new way to donate to the classic fundraising campaign this year: with a smartphone.

Heather Bishop, 35, was among those who did wait to hear about the non-cash option. She quickly completed her electronic donation while keeping an eye on her two young children after a stop at the American Girl store.

“It was fast, very easy,” Bishop said, adding that she was visiting the city from Wisconsin and doesn’t carry cash while on trips. “All of my giving is online.”

The charity’s leaders hope adding Apple and Google payment options will boost giving to the red kettle campaign, which makes up 10% of its annual fundraising. Those donations fund programs providing housing, food and other support to people in poverty.

“Those red kettle campaign funds help us throughout the entire year housing the homeless, feeding the hungry and helping families overcome poverty,” said Dale Bannon, the assistant national community relations director for Salvation Army USA.

“I think the future is bright, but we have to be flexible and provide multiple options for people to give.”

Americans’ dependence on physical cash to make purchases has declined over time, especially among people who make more than $75,000 per year, according to the Pew Research Center. The same survey found about 46% of Americans “don’t really worry much” about leaving home without cash because of all their other payment options.

Nonprofits of all types have increased their focus on online fundraising in response, but campaigns that rely on spur-of-the-moment donations outside stores directly feel the effects of consumers’ cashless lifestyle.

The organization has tested other cashless options in recent years, including a text message-based program and credit and debit card readers that plugged into bell ringers’ phones. But both were time consuming compared to dropping cash into the kettle.

Donors preferred “an easy and quick” option, Bannon said.

The physical change to the kettles is subtle — a tag containing microchip has been added to the Salvation Army sign attached to each red kettle stand.

Donors tap their phone to the tag, opening a donation form that suggests giving $5, $10 or $25. Donors also can type in a different amount.

People whose phones aren’t compatible with contactless payment systems can use their camera to photograph a QR code, opening a similar donation form.

Any mobile donations are sent to the Salvation Army chapter nearest to the donor’s billing ZIP code.

This year marks the 129th campaign using the bright red kettles, staffed by bell ringers outside grocery stores and popular shopping spots. For at least five years, it has been clear that cashless shopping was affecting donations, Bannon said.

The organization tested Apple Pay and Google Pay in four cities last year, and officials decided to roll the options out nationally this year as they aim to raise $150 million.

This year’s holiday calendar shaves six days off the Salvation Army’s typical window for the red kettle campaign, and officials hope the mobile options will help make up for that lost time. Bell ringers will be out in force starting the day after Thanksgiving, though many chapters launched their efforts in early November.

Anecdotally, nonprofits believe donors could wind up giving more via mobile than they would in spare change or dollar bills. They reason that someone pulling out a phone will choose one of the suggested dollar amounts, likely exceeding a few singles or loose change from a coat pocket.

A digital donation also gives the nonprofit information about donors that lets the organization follow up by email. Creating that opportunity for future giving is impossible with cash, said Una Osili, associate dean for research at Indiana University’s School of Philanthropy.

“Anytime you can expand opportunities to reach new donors, that’s a win for the organization,” Osili said.

Non-cash gifts have one financial downside though. They trigger financial processing fees, said Rick Cohen, a spokesman for the National Council of Nonprofits.

Small businesses can try to offset processing fees in the cost of their goods. Nonprofits don’t have that option, though some organizations do ask donors to voluntarily increase their total gift and cover fees, he said.

“You always want to meet the donors where they are, but there’s an opportunity cost,” he said.

Bannon said there is a processing fee for mobile donations at red kettles, ranging between 2% and 2.5% depending on which card a donor connects to their Apple or Google Pay account.

Harper said she hopes the new options will increase donations to the Salvation Army. Her only concern is cold temperatures in Chicago and other parts of the country discouraging people from stopping to use the mobile system.

“Right now, it’s easy,” she said. “Hopefully it works out when it’s really cold out. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.”

Childhood obesity rising in West Virginia

HUNTINGTON — Despite rates declining nationally, the obesity rate among children ages 2 to 4 participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in West Virginia increased from 14.4% in 2010 to 16.6% in 2016, according to the newest data published this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In West Virginia, 30,504 infants, and children participate in WIC, and the state has the third-highest obesity rate in the country among children ages 2 to 4 participating in WIC. Nationally, 13.9% of children in this group have obesity, but that rate has declined both nationally and in 41 states and territories.

WIC is a federally funded program for low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants and children under age 5. It provides healthy foods and nutrition education, promotes breastfeeding and supports nursing mothers, and offers health care and social-service referrals. WIC served approximately 6.3 million people in 2018, including nearly half of all infants born in the United States.

North Carolina and Alabama joined West Virginia in seeing significant increases in the obesity rate. Kentucky’s rate rose almost 3% between 2014 and 2016, but at 15.9%, it is still lower than the 18.2% rate in 2010.

Ohio’s rate declined slightly, from 13.1% in 2014 to 12.4% in 2016.

A study done by the Coronary Artery Risk Detection in Appalachian Communities (CARDIAC) Project in 17 West Virginia county schools during the 2018-19 school year found half of fifth-graders in those counties were considered overweight or obese, according to a story in The Register-Herald newspaper in Beckley.

The study included kindergarten, second- and fifth-grade students. Counties included Wayne, Mason, Lincoln, Boone, Mingo and Wyoming.

Researchers found 37% of kindergarten students and 43% of second-grade students were obese or overweight. In addition, nearly 1 in 10 of the sampled children showed warning signs of diabetes.

Any child found to be overweight or obese in the CARDIAC study became eligible for Health in a Snap, a program that offers dietary counseling, educational classes and additional resources at no cost to families. The program is a partnership of the WVU Extension Service’s Family Nutrition Program, West Virginia University Medicine and CARDIAC.

Kristin McCartney, Snap-Ed director, said the goal is not to cause body image issues with children, but to encourage families to make a healthy difference.

“Obviously, this is no an individual problem, McCartney told The Register-Herald. “We need to work on increasing access to healthy foods and we need our kids to be more active.”

Other data show it is not just youngsters in West Virginia dealing with obesity.

West Virginia has the highest adult obesity rate in the nation and the second-highest rate for kids ages 10 to 17, according to the state Department of Health and Human Resources. The adult rate is currently 39.5%, up from 23% in 2000 and 13% in 1990.

West Virginia also ranked highest in the nation for the prevalence of poor physical health, poor mental health and activity limitations due to poor physical and mental health.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said credits the progress in WIC obesity rates nationwide to positive federal and local changes.

The package of foods and beverages covered by WIC was updated in 2009 to include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lower-fat milk. Subsequent studies show that, following those changes, stores started to stock healthier options and WIC participants had healthier diets. In addition, states have increasingly adopted improved child care nutrition standards.

To continue the nationwide progress, the foundation recommends Congress:

  • Increase WIC funding to extend eligibility to postpartum mothers through the first two years after the birth of a baby, and to children through the age of 6 to align with participation in school meal programs.
  • Fund the WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Program at its full authorized amount of $90 million to ensure mothers have access to critical supports.
  • Continue to support and fund efforts to streamline and modernize WIC services through technology, including achieving the congressional mandate for all states to achieve WIC Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) by 2020.

Shopping events, fun scheduled for ‘Small Business Saturday’

HUNTINGTON — Tri-State area businesses are looking forward to a busy shopping day Saturday, scheduling many fun and entertaining events to make this year’s Small Business Saturday special.

Small Business Saturday, a promotion launched in 2010 to support local shopping, is held the Saturday after Thanksgiving — this year, Nov. 30.

This year’s celebration is the 10th Annual Small Business Saturday, marking a decade of support from American Express for local business owners. Since it started, consumers have reported spending an estimated $103 billion across all Small Business Saturdays combined.

“That’s $103 billion toward helping communities thrive, spent over just nine days alone,” said Tyson Compton, executive director of the Huntington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Total reported spending among U.S. consumers who said they shopped at independent retailers and restaurants on the day reached a record high of an estimated $17.8 billion in 2018.

The Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce, which advocates for more than 550 businesses in Cabell and Wayne counties, promotes not only Small Business Saturday, but also shopping locally throughout the holiday shopping season, according to Bill Bissett, president and CEO of the Huntington Regional Chamber.

Bissett said the chamber is sharing information about “shopping small” through its membership and its social media networks, as well as partnered advertisements.

“While our primary goal is to make cash registers ring at our locally owned businesses, it also informs the potential customer to keep this manner of shopping in mind as they check off items on their holiday shopping list,” Bissett said.

“I think we can all agree that retail shopping in the United States has changed immensely in the past decade,” Bissett added. “While our chamber includes members like Amazon and other large retailers, we also want to shine a light on some of our smaller members and what they can offer this holiday season. When you buy someone a gift, part of the fun is finding not only something unique, but also a gift that has a connection to where you call home. Shopping small lets you do just that.”

MacKenzie Morley, executive director for Downtown Huntington Partners, an association of businesses aimed at promoting the downtown area, said many downtown Huntington retailers will be offering discounts storewide, some have free gifts with a purchase and many will have extended shopping hours. Morley also serves on the My Huntington committee.

“Some of our restaurants will also be offering some incentives on drinks and tasting menus to keep you fueled up while you shop,” Morley said.

Morley owns Kenzington Alley, a women’s boutique, and MacK’s, a dedicated shoe store. Her two stores are on the same block directly across from Pullman Square.

“Small Business Saturday is always special for us in downtown Huntington. With the majority of our businesses locally owned, many are offering special deals and discounts to help drive business on that day,” she said.

Morley suggests checking social media pages for downtown businesses to see individual offers and hours of operation.

“All in all, our downtown community appreciates the support we receive year round, but we are definitely pulling out all the stops for Small Business Saturday,” she said.

The Huntington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau announced that as a member of the American Express Neighborhood Champion Program it will host “Shop & Savor at Heritage Station” on Saturday.

The Visitors Center at Heritage Station, 210 11th St., will open at 8 a.m. to welcome visitors and shoppers who can pick up a complimentary Shop Small Tote Bag (limited quantities), sign up for a chance to win a gift basket, and pick up a Heritage Station map. Businesses around the Station will offer one-day-only deals throughout the day.

Also, many Heritage Station businesses will expand their hours that day, including Birds of a Feather Boutique (10 a.m. to 7 p.m.), The Red Caboose (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.), The Haute Wick Social (10 a.m. to 7 p.m.), Taps at Heritage (1 p.m. to midnight), and Nomada Bakery (7 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

The Red Caboose will also host artisan pop-ups featuring painter Brandy Jefferys, photographer Jesse Thornton of Reflection in a Pool, polymer clay artist Ken Epperly, and local coffee roaster Hill Tree Roastery. Gift cards also will be available; Brown Dog Yoga will offer $120 gift cards for $100 and $50 gift cards for $40.

“Small Business Saturday is a great way for our Tri-State community to discover and support our local artisans,” said Raine Klover, manager of The Red Caboose. “We’re excited to showcase our pop-up artists who are all creating right here in Huntington.”

Shoppers can also fuel up while shopping at Nomada and Pax Cafe, and then take a break from shopping and enjoy an adult beverage at Sip or Taps. Sip also offers brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. In addition, Taps and Sip will be a stop on the Santa Toy Crawl sponsored by Huntington Pride, which includes stops at 10 downtown bars where participants are asked to drop off unwrapped gifts suitable for children ages 6 months to 5 years old at each location. Cash donations will be accepted as well.

Compton says in order to drive shoppers to “shop small” this Saturday, the Huntington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau is participating in the American Express Neighborhood Champion Program to spotlight small businesses and the impact they have on communities.

“An average two-thirds of every dollar, approximately 67 cents, spent at a small business in the U.S. stays in that local community,” he said. “That means shopping small could help bring things like better schools, smoother roads and new jobs to neighborhoods.”

Lauren Kemp, president of the Old Central City Association, says when consumers are aware that 67 cents of each dollar spent at a small business stays in their local community, helping to keep Main Streets thriving, 75% said it inspires them to make shopping small an ongoing commitment, according to the 2019 Shop Small Consumer Impact Survey.

“On Small Business Saturday, the Central City Antiques District at 14th Street West in Huntington will be hosting an Antiques District Crawl from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 15 locally owned businesses,” Kemp said. “Enjoy a warm reception from local shopkeepers who have put out their best holiday gifts, vintage party attire and home decor. Attend the Crawl to find great, unique gifts that support local businesses and that don’t contribute to the holiday waste stream.”

Modern Daisy Boutique in the Progress Building in downtown Huntington is hosting a “Stocking Stuffer Event” starting at 11 a.m. on Small Business Saturday.

“We will have several options to help you complete your Christmas shopping,” the boutique said on its Facebook page. “Plus we’ll have Christmas cookies and drinks.”

Travis Lemon, co-owner of the health store Tulsi at The Market on 3rd Avenue, said Tulsi is excited to bring its customers another Small Business Saturday event with speakers from the local health and wellness community. The store will have special sales, demos and more.

A schedule of events includes breakfast with Tulsi from 9-10 a.m., health screenings with HIMG from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., chair massages by Little Moon Massage and Wellness from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., product demos from noon to 3 p.m., and juice tasting from 3 to 4 p.m.

Two health-minded practitioners will also speak to customers on Saturday. Dr. Skip will discuss benefits of juices at 2 p.m. and Dr. Jane Kurucz will speak at 4 p.m.

In its first year, the Holly Jolly Christmas Bazaar hosted by The Craft Shack from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Barboursville Community Center on Small Business Saturday will feature approximately 20 vendors as well as Santa for pictures with children.

Three Birds Floral in Milton is hosting a day-long sale in-store, raffles for live wreaths and swag decor, as well as homemade refreshments.

“Stock up on your holiday gifts made by local artisans, pick up a fresh beautiful unique wrapped bouquet, or just come and chat,” Three Birds Floral posted on its Facebook page. “Stop by to support your local business and help our community grow.”

City of Hurricane officials are urging Small Business Saturday shoppers to consider shopping and eating out at its locally owned businesses and restaurants. To make it fun, they are asking those shoppers to take to social media to “check-in” or tag businesses in posts as they visit them on Saturday to encourage others to do the same.

Merchants and consumers can learn more about Small Business Saturday and how to get involved by visiting ShopSmall.com.

Runners kick-off turkey day with annual Turkey Trot

HUNTINGTON — While some woke up early to put the turkey in the oven, other Huntington residents woke early and put on their running shoes.

The 13th annual Turkey Trot 5K made its way through Ritter Park on Thursday morning. Runners sporting turkey hats and turkey tutus burned calories before sitting down for their Thanksgiving day feasts.

The annual race benefits Little Victories Animal Shelter in Ona. Runners were also encouraged to donate pet food for the shelter.

Nathan Galloway finished in first place, completing the race in 16 minutes, 44 seconds.