Time to make the Red Kettle bells ring bright

THERE ARE JUST A few days left until Christmas. That leaves just a few days to finalize plans for family get-togethers, finish grocery shopping for family dinners and complete lastminute – or in some cases, first- and last-minute – Christmas gift shopping.

It will be a frantic time heading up to the day when we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace.

In all of the running to stores, malls and the rest, there should be one constant everyone will run into – the Red Kettles and bell-ringers of the Salvation Army.

They have become one of the ubiquitous symbols of the holidays all over the world – volunteers who stand by the red Salvation Army holiday kettles, ringing their bells and collecting for the non-profit group.

The spare change and bills dropped into all those kettles between Thanksgiving and Christmas constitutes the major fund-raising effort for the many, many good things the Salvation Army does in communities around the world throughout the year – including our own city and county.

As one example, the Salvation Army provides nearly 60 million free meals nationwide to the needly and homeless.

Right here at home, the Salvation Army offers emergency shelter, food, clothing and spiritual support for homeless men, women and children year-round at the 45-bed Emergency Lodge in Sheboygan – which on any given day can host nearly five or more children. Christmas is made brighter every year for the less fortunate by the Salvation Army’s Christmas Castle event in Sheboygan, while the Plymouth Salvation Army provides support for these and many other programs and local residents in need.

The Red Kettle program was born in 1891 in San Francisco, when Salvation Army Capt. Joseph McFee copied the ‘Simpson’s Pot’ collection kettle he had seen in the harbor in Liverpool, England, when he was a sailor.

Looking for a way to raise money to feed his city’s poor, he placed a pot at the Oakland Ferry landing at the foot of Market Street, with a sign reading “Keep the Pot Boiling.” His effort was successful, and within just a few years it spread across the country, all the way to Boston and New York and all points in between.

The campaign is fueled by volunteers – those who give their spare change and those who give their time to man the kettles and ring the bells.

Through good times and bad, depressions and wars, no matter what, people have stepped up to support the Red Kettle campaign and the good works of the Salvation Army it supports.

But this year, unfortunately, those efforts are lagging.

Locally, the Salvation Army in Sheboygan is less than halfway to its fund-raising goal of $540,000, and in Plymouth the Army is far from its goal of $62,000. There is always a spike in giving in the last days leading up to Christmas, but it will take a huge push to make this year’s drive successful.

That’s not to say that it can’t happen, though.

There is still plenty of time for the holiday spirit to shine through.

As you’re out running around in these last few days before Christmas, rushing to get everything done that needs to be done, please spare a thought for those less fortunate, for whom the holidays are not so bright – and spare a few coins, a few bills or whatever you can to drop into the red kettle. It will make the holidays brighter for many people – including you.

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