It's a Christmas tradition that is decades old: Salvation Army bell-ringers taking donations in their red kettles.

This year, there are fewer bell-ringers, and less money going into those kettles.

According to the Salvation Army, there are two main reasons for that: a shorter period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and a recent arctic outbreak.

"We lost about a week and an half for bell-ringing opportunities, and then we had a cold snap and San Antonio. We're not used to that cold weather so nobody wanted to go outside," said Salvation Army Capt. Jennifer Schmidt.

However, you don't have to be out braving the elements to make a donation.

The Salvation Army has stepped into the 21st Century by creating virtual red kettles. Donors can now go online to make a donation. Donors can even create a virtual kettle of their own to take in donations for the Salvation Army.

Volunteers are also in short supply, especially for their Angel Tree program.

"Help sort toys. Prepare for distribution and everything like that, and even for the distribution days," Schmidt said.

Volunteering to man one of the red kettles helps to raise money in more ways than one.

"Volunteering to cover one of those shifts saves us enough money and personnel costs to feed a mother and her three children here in our shelter for one day," said Schmidt.

Much like the retail industry, the fund brought in during Christmas go far beyond this season.

"This drive that we do during Christmas -- our fundraising opportunities -- actually help fund the programs we do throughout the year," said Schmidt.

To donate to a virtual red kettle, or to create your own red kettle, go to

For volunteer opportunities, go to

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