Salvation Army to ring bells, hand out candy canes at Saratoga Race Course this weekend in hopes of collecting donations
By MAREESA NICOSIA, The Saratogian
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Salvation Army bells will be ringing as usual this weekend at the gates of Saratoga Race Course.
Not as usual will be the 4,000 candy canes bell-ringer volunteers intend to give out to attract racing fans to donate to the charity during the Travers festivities Aug. 28 and 29.
The Salvation Army posts volunteers at track entrances all day, every day, while racing is in session to solicit donations that directly benefit Saratoga County residents through a multitude of programs and services.
But this year, donations have been down thousands of dollars compared to the same time last year, said pastor Roger D. Miller, a corps officer who runs the local Salvation Army chapter with his wife, pastor Patricia A. Miller.
“The Saratoga Springs corps has the unique opportunity of maintaining a historic presence at the track and being allowed to collect there,” Miller said. “We’ve got Travers weekend coming up and it’s really the last big hurrah. The candy canes are to show appreciation to the regular track attendees who have been giving and to draw attention to the year-round need we have for donations.”
This weekend, in addition to the regular volunteers posted at the racetrack entrances, members of the Saratoga Rotary and the Salvation Army advisory board will be manning collection boxes as well.
About 15,000 people in Saratoga County benefited from Salvation Army services last year. From its headquarters at 27 Woodlawn Ave. it offers a food pantry, a fast-growing youth learning center, a free breakfast program, a shower facility, a free clothing room, and assistance so needy families can send kids to summer camp, buy Christmas presents and pay rent and utilities.
The demand for services increases during the summer when children are out of school. But with people spending less and track attendance slumping, the bell-ringers are finishing their days with lighter buckets than ever, Miller said.
He added that the Salvation Army is not unique — charities throughout town are facing difficulties finding funds.
“It can mean that folks going inside the track have less free money because times are tighter, and then there’s fewer of them going in,” Miller said. “We think we can attract a little more attention with the candy canes.”