Salvation Army gearing up for Red Kettle campaign

This year’s Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign begins Nov. 16 and runs through Dec. 23. Sign-ups to volunteer for a bellringing shift are now open. (Pioneer file photo)

Volunteers can sign up now for bell ringing shifts

BIG RAPIDS — The phrase “opening day” in Mecosta County brings up thoughts of blaze orange, deer, ammunition and a day off school for many residents, but the Big Rapids Salvation Army office is busy preparing for a different sort of opening day — the launch of the annual Red Kettle campaign on Nov. 16.

To prepare for the approximately five-week-long fundraising campaign, Salvation Army organizers are scheduling bell ringers, seeking coordinators and bringing the signature red kettles out of storage. 

“A big portion of the funds we need to operate throughout the year come out of this five-week period of time,” said Salvation Army Envoy Ed Hoskins. “One-third of our undesignated funding comes from the campaign. Part of these funds literally helped get all the kids to summer camp last year.”

This year’s Red Kettle Campaign will run from Thursday, Nov. 16, through Saturday, Dec. 23. This year’s goal is $120,000, up from last year’s collection total of $110,194.

The local Salvation Army office will have kettles at 10 locations in Mecosta, Osceola and Newaygo counties. Kettles will be by each door of Walmart in Big Rapids and Fremont; at Big Lots, Walgreens and JC Penney in Big Rapids; at Vic’s Supermarket in Reed City; Foster’s Supermarket in Evart; and Leppinks in Newaygo.

With 1,200 bellringing shifts to fill, organizers are already signing up volunteers, said Chris Vallette, development director.

“Bell ringing sign-ups have been open for about a month now,” he said. “If people want to volunteer, they can contact our office at (231) 796-5597 or go online at sabigrapids.org.”

Currently, a little more than 10 percent of the available shifts are filled.

Donations to the local Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign help fund the following programs:

• Tools for Schools

• Community Center

• Music programs

• Angel Tree gift program

• Summer camps

• Emergency disaster services

• Adult rehab center

• Energy assistance

• Pathway of Hope

• Fresh Start Baby Pantry

“I’m really concerned about December,” Vallette said. “That’s when all our locations are up and running and there’s more people out shopping and visiting the stores we’re at. We definitely need bellringers for the month of December.”

The Salvation Army also is seeking a volunteer or a part-time coordinator to handle efforts at the three kettles in Newaygo County, which would free up Big Rapids-based staff from needing to drive to Newaygo twice a day, as well as save the expense of fuel.

Early birds will have more than just their choice of shifts, Hoskins noted. Every shift a person signs up for will enter them into a drawing for two tickets to the Nov. 18 Ferris State University hockey game against Michigan State University. The drawing will take place Thursday, Nov. 9.

The Nov. 18 hockey game also will serve as the official campaign kick-off. Other notable dates during the campaign include the Rotary Ring Off day, Dec. 16.

On that day, Johnson’s Automotive Repair, which is sponsoring the campaign with McDonald Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram this year, has challenged the Big Rapids Rotary Club to not only meet the $4,000 Johnson’s has earmarked as a kettle match, but also to raise an additional $2,000 in matching funds themselves.

“Rotary, on average just by ringing, brings in about $6,000,” Hoskins said. “If Rotary met the challenge, the total could be $12,000 — that’s 10 percent of the overall goal if we can do it.”

Again this year, the Salvation Army will be offering Season Pass pins for donors who don’t carry cash but want to contribute. The pins are available for $20 and $50 donations, and feature an image of a red kettle on a shield-shaped pin for the donor to wear on their coat.

“We’re becoming more of a cashless society,” Hoskins said. “This gives people the opportunity to pay with a check or whatever at the office.”

Individuals interested in donating and businesses wishing to sponsor a kettle and match donations for a day are asked to call the office at (231) 796-5597.

“It’s important for people to know this money doesn’t just help people at Christmas,” Hoskins said. “This extends us through our lean months, June through September, when we have the least amount of donations coming in.”

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Posted by Candy Allan

Candy is the Pioneer's associate editor. She also coordinates the Family & Friends, Religion and Parenting pages. She can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8386 or by e-mail at callan@pioneergroup.com.

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