By Collin Brooks
The bells will be ringing in front of some of your favorite retailers as the Salvation Army kicked off their Red Kettle Campaign just after the Thanksgiving Holiday.
And while it might just be a small bit of change, those rattling sounds inside of the kettle can really add up.
“There will be 100,000 people shopping in the Tri-Cities and if each person gave a penny, that would equal a couple of thousands of dollars,” Corps Officer of Johnson City Captain Michael Cox said. “Then you start adding those up to nickels, dimes or quarters and those things add up greatly.
“Of course we don’t mind dollars either, we like paper money as well, but don’t allow the coins to jiggle in your pocket. Let them jiggle into our kettles.”
The money raised during the Red Kettle Campaign helps fund one-third of the Salvation Army’s yearly budget. So it is a very important time of year, according to Salvation Army Corps Officer of Kingsport Major Alan Hill.
“We use these funds for our emergency shelter and for families coming in and asking for emergency assistance; or families asking for food from the food pantry or clothing vouchers. We have all of those things going on in the background throughout the entire year.”
The Salvation Army — which has been serving the Tri-Cities for over 100 years — has provided over 31,000 nights of shelter in the Tri-Cities area and has served over 150,000 meals last year, but during the Christmas season, they take on another important mission.
That comes in the form of gathering presents for local needy children with the Angel Trees.
This year there are 4,176 Angels from the Tri-Cities area, with over half of those coming from Johnson City. It’s an important mission for the group.
“There is nothing better than Christmas morning and the kids waking up to new clothes and a toy,” Hill said.
In Johnson City, Angel Trees can be found at Wal-Mart on Browns Mill Road and the Mall of Johnson City. The cut-off to return goods for Johnson City is Dec. 9, while Kingsport’s is Dec. 15.
Washington County Commissioner Tom Krieger, who has served on the Salvation Army’s advisory board for almost three decades, said the impact of this fundraiser is felt throughout the year.
“The Red Kettle Program is by far the Army’s most important and successful fundraiser,” he said. “And it has become a holiday tradition to millions of folks. What better way is there to teach your children and grandchildren the importance of giving to others?”
Of all the money that comes in 82 cents of every dollar raised goes back into the services, the national average, according to Krieger is just over 60 cents.
If people would like to volunteer their time to help the Salvation Army, they are encouraged to call the branch office. Times are still available to ring bells, if people or organizations would like to do so. The number for the Johnson City office is 423-926-2101.