Economy affects Salvation Army red kettles

For nearly 150 years, the Salvation Army has used its red kettles and bell ringers to raise money for charity.

Sometimes, it's an economic indicator.

Right now, the arrow points down.

"It's really slow," says a bell ringer in front of a local drug store. "It comes in waves, but this year the waves are few and far between."

For the second year in a row, the Salvation Army is struggling to get kettle donations up in Tucson.

"We're down about $40,000 from where we were at this point last year," says Major Edward Markham, who keeps track of the donations every day.  "And we were flat last year."

It's not totally unexpected. 2012 was predicted to be a down year for most major charities.

Part of the reason may be, giving and spending in the 2012 election was so high, there's little left for charity.

One member of the organization, who asked not to be identified, said a major donor said as much but would check around to see if he could find some others who might donate.

Meantime, the pennies, nickels and dimes continue to flow, albeit rather slowly into the pots.

There are about 125 bell ringers in front of supermarkets and drug stores during the holiday season.

Some of the ringers are taking it personally. "We tell them it's not their fault," says Markham.

Even with the drop in donations, it doesn't mean there is a corresponding drop in services.

"We try to do more with less," he says. "Service requests are up 23%."

He says the organization gets letters from people who were givers in the past, but are now thanking them for the Army's help.