Salvation Army red kettle season is upon us


The scene may be as American as apple pie. You’ve been doing some Christmas shopping for your friends and family as usual, and you’ve grabbed a few groceries while you were at it. You’ve had it with the store— the place was busy, the shopping cart pulled in one direction, much to your frustration, and you’re just ready to be home. You’ve checked out and your cart is loaded with bags as you make your way through the automatic doors. A blast of cold air hits you. When you do so, you come face to face with a volunteer all bundled up in layers, ringing a bell, and asking for donations to the Salvation Army. You dig for your change, or, in today’s world, pull out your phone and make a digital payment. The holiday tradition is a staple of the season, and, according to the local Salvation Army branch, one that is instrumental in community programming. Which leads us to the old holiday question: Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?

Last year, the local Salvation Army was able to surpass their goal of $89,000 through the kettle system and a matching grant.

The funding goes a long way in providing opportunity to the agency in supporting the community through programming, from feeding kitchens to youth programming.

The programming benefited by the kettles includes youth clubs and classes, the community feeding program, and more.

The funding also goes towards dire operational needs, such as rent, utilities, and other costs associated with running an organization.

According to the Salvation Army, the kettle programming began in 1891, when Captain Joseph McFee of the Salvation Army in San Francisco wanted to provide dinner for 1,000 underserved people.

He had no way to fund the endeavor but thought back to his days as a sailor in Liverpool, where there was a pot on the docks of the city’s waterfront for donations.

McFee secured permission to place a brass urn at the ferry landing. Beside the pot, he placed a sign that read, “Keep the Pot Boiling.” Soon, he had all the money he needed to fund the Christmas dinner.

In two-years’ time, there were 30 kettle locations on the west coast.

In 1895, he was transferred to Boston and took the idea with him. The program was feeding hundreds of thousands until it grew to New York, where the New York World newspaper called the program “the newest and most novel device for collecting money.”

In 1901, kettle donations in New York City funded a massive sit-down Christmas dinner at Madison Square Garden. The meal became a tradition for many years.

The program then exploded across the country.

The bell-ringing and kettles have been engrained in the American mind, have been featured in movies and television shows alike, and continue to raise funding for dire social programming hosted by the organization.

“The kettle is one of our most important fundraisers we have over the course of the year,” Salvation Army’s Dan Simco explained.

The only day the Salvation Army doesn’t ring throughout this timeframe is on Sundays.

There are eight locations in our local community for the local Salvation Army and they are still seeking volunteers to ring the bells.

This is down from the regular 10 to 12 stops they’re used to and Simco is concerned it may impact their overhead and goal.

“It’s going to be a challenge, because we lost a couple stores. We had 10 last year and 12 the year before,” Simco explained. “It is certainly quite important for us to do well. We build our budget in October with the plan of meeting a goal. If we don’t we have to take a look at our budget and make changes.”

Interested parties may call 740.353.2400 and hit extension 108 to reach Simco to discuss volunteering.

“If we didn’t have the kettle program, we would definitely have to do things much more differently,” Simco said. “We would probably have to let go our youth coordinator that helps with the area youth.”

Simco explained that the money used to fund that position and program would need to be diverted into other important locations.

The youth coordinator focuses on extracurricular education, music, and more.

In order to keep the program evolving, the local Salvation Army not only accepts cash, but takes Apple Pay and offers a secure online payment option.

“It has really forced our hand to offer other opportunities. At our kettle stands, we have two modes where people can donate cashlessly,” Simco said. “There is a bump magnet for folks with smart phones that takes them to Apple Pay. There is also a QR code that we have taped to our kettle stands, where someone with a smart phone can snap a picture and it takes them to a secure link to make a donation.”

The goal of the Salvation Army is $88,000 this year and is strictly for program continuity. The recent launch will run through December 24.

“It is because the grace of god and generosity of people who have supported the ministry of the Salvation Army through the decades. We recognize that and appreciate what the community does,” Simco said. “We could not do what we do without the community’s support.”

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.

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