LAKEWOOD - The sound of ringing bells fills the air, the red kettles are hanging in front of storefronts and the holiday season is upon us.
Every Christmas season, community members can find the Salvation Army's Red Kettle campaign in full effect as they go about their shopping. The campaign is an opportunity for people to embrace the spirit of giving through cash donations being placed in each red kettle. The campaign and its donation process are due to a long-standing tradition that, according to the Salvation Army's website, has extended for more than a century.
The Red Kettle campaign was begun in San Francisco by Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee in 1891. McFee, distraught over so many poor and hungry San Franciscans, resolved to provide Christmas dinners to the destitute and poverty-stricken.
Noah Larson is pictured here standing outside of Wal-Mart on Friday. Noah, along with his mother, Heidi, make volunteering for The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign an annual tradition.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
From his time spent as a sailor in Liverpool, England, he recalled people at Stage Landing flinging coins into an iron kettle called "Simpson's Pot" with the proceeds going to help the poor. McFee set up his own kettle at San Francisco's Oakland Ferry Landing with a sign reading "Keep the Pot Boiling." Within six years, the kettle concept had spread to the Boston area on the east coast. Today, McFee's Red Kettle campaign assists more than 4.5 million people across the U.S. during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.
On Friday, many local volunteers took time out of their day to ring those famous bells and kindly accept donations from generous shoppers. Up and down Lakewood's Fairmount Avenue, several red kettles could be seen by passers-by.
According to Marlene, a volunteer in front of Brigiotta's Farmland Produce, the Red Kettle campaign is a way to give back to the community.
"I (volunteer) because it helps people and (the donated money) all stays in the community," she said. "People are in need and it's sad with the economy the way it is. I've been doing this for about five years now and on Christmas Eve, my husband and I both do it together. About two years ago, I challenged myself to do it outside and, believe it or not, it's not too bad. I was here (at Brigiotta's) one year during a freak blizzard, but it's worth it."
For some, volunteering for Red Kettle is part of a family tradition. At Wal-Mart, Heidi Larson and her son, Noah, were running a kettle that was sponsored by Shults Auto Group.
"We do this every year because it's for a good cause," said Noah. "It has special meaning for us because it helps other people in other ways."
"It's something we do as a family," said Heidi. "Usually my other two sons are with us and sometimes they'll be at one place and we'll be at another, but it's something that we do together. It's an easy way to help out. And people have been very generous, it's very encouraging."
Some volunteer through an organization. Chris Emley and his daughter Alicyn were at the Chautauqua Mall representing the DeMarco Sisters School of Dance, of which Alicyn is a member.
"The Salvation Army lets (the school of dance) use their big room for cheer and they had a signup for people to give back so we decided to do that," said Chris. "This is (Alicyn's) first year in cheer so this is our first year of doing it through them. We've been shocked by how generous people are. We've been here about 20 minutes and I would say we've made about $15 so far."
The Salvation Army's Red Kettle campaign is now in its 122nd consecutive year. The national goal for this year's campaign is $3 million. To learn more about the campaign, start a new kettle or to make an online donation, visit: www.onlineredkettle.org.