If you’ve shopped at City Market since Thanksgiving, you may have noticed one of your friends wearing a Santa hat and ringing bell next to a red kettle at the front door.

They are soliciting your spare change for the Salvation Army. Between Thanksgiving and Dec. 7 they were able to raise over $4000.

“The community of Moab is amazing in how they have opened their hearts and pockets,” said Sara Melnicoff. “This is our main fundraiser of the year.”

The bell will continue to ring until Christmas Eve. The money will go toward helping people in emergency situations within the Moab community.

The Red Kettle Campaign began in 1891 during a San Francisco fundraiser to provide a free Christmas dinner to the area’s poor. A Salvation Army captain placed a single crab pot on the landing of the Oakland ferry where commuters could toss change.

The campaign is now considered one of the most recognizable charitable campaigns in the United States, with more than 25,000 volunteers across the country ringing bells to solicit spare change donations from holiday shoppers.

All money raised from the red kettles stays in the community in which it was collected.

According to the 2012 Year in Review, the Salvation Army was able to help more than 30 million people with a variety of services, including 10 million nights of lodging and 60 million meals.

There has been a Moab branch of the Salvation Army for 10 years, mainly working behind the scenes providing vouchers and assistance with the aid of the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, SeekHaven and area churches.

However, since February it has become far more active with the help of volunteers Sara Melnicoff and Lenore Beeson.

“We’re trying to take it up to everything it can be to meet the needs we have here,” Melnicoff said.

The branch has helped more than 80 people since February.

“The people we are helping are across the board,” Beeson said.

It may be a hand-up in an emergency situation, such as buying auto parts for man who is living in his car, providing medication, one month’s worth of rent for a disabled veteran, providing a night’s lodging or helping someone who has been incarcerated to find a way back to their hometown.

One of the most memorable situations was a call they received from the Grand County Sheriff’s Office about a man from Canada who was wandering naked in the Book Cliffs who was lost and dehydrated.

“He had nothing, absolutely nothing,” Beeson said. She said his car still hasn’t been found.

They were able to get him some clothes at WabiSabi, provided lodging for a few nights and found a way to get him home to Canada.

“We like to partner with the Sheriff’s Office,” Melnicoff said. “They have been phenomenal and it has all been because of Sheriff Steve White’s leadership.”

The Salvation Army has been caring for the homeless who live here in Moab.

“We do have a problem in Grand County with homelessness,” said Audrey Graham, county councilwoman.

The annualized population of homeless in Grand County is 24, according to the State of Utah’s Report on Homelessness.

Melnicoff counted 16 chronically homeless persons last January during the annual count. The chronically homeless are often struggling with addiction and mental health issues, she said.

There is no shelter in town at this time for those needing emergency lodging, other than SeekHaven which provides lodging for only women and children in a domestic violence situation, Graham said.

And there have been deaths.

“One died from exposure in Moonflower Canyon,” Graham said. “Another woman died along the parkway a few years ago. We were all very surprised no one died during the coldest winter a few years ago, but part of that was because Sara Melnicoff was working so hard to help them.”

With no shelters available, a homeless person who is heavily intoxicated may be taken into police custody for their safety on a cold night.

“We’ve had no resource other than incarceration,” Beeson said of the community.

That can prove to be an expense to the public, Graham said.

“According to the state average, a night in jail costs $65. That doesn’t include the cost if the person needs medical care, or emergency medical services, or if the person dies and we don’t know who they are. The burial is $800 and covered by the county,” Graham said. “It seems cold, but if you want to boil it down to numbers, it is cheaper to keep people under a roof rather than not. It is also more compassionate.”

Graham said that there are ways to meet needs without enabling behavior.

“There are ways to get to the root of the problem, whether is it addiction or mental health,” Graham said. “Should refusal to confront those problems be a death sentence?”

The Salvation Army also actively addresses the root causes of poverty, such as providing substance abuse rehabilitation.

“Our goal is not just treat the symptoms of poverty, but to work diligently to heal the epidemic once and for all,” said Commissioner William Roberts, National Commander of The Salvation Army USA.

Melnicoff said that the regional office in Grand Junction, Colo. has recently assisted her in helping a chronically homeless woman living here in Moab enter a rehabilitation center.