Bells are ringing
by Anna Oakes
Although the warm weather feels odd for this time of year, the sound of a chiming bell should seem keenly familiar.
The Salvation Army's annual Red Kettle Campaign is underway, and in Watauga and Avery counties, more volunteer bell ringers are needed to help the organization reach its fundraising goal.
"If we could get seven volunteers to take a whole day for seven days, that would be extremely helpful," said Salvation Army Lt. Michal Chapman, director of the Boone Outpost. But, she added, "We're very flexible. If someone wants to volunteer (they can work) for two hours or the whole day."
The Salvation Army is a nonprofit, international Christian organization that operates 7,546 centers in the United States.
In Watauga and Avery counties, the Salvation Army provides assistance for utility and heating bills, furniture for people who are re-establishing a home, clothing and a food pantry -- located at the local outpost's office at 719-A Greenway Road in Boone.
At Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Salvation Army works with Avery Project Christmas in Avery County and Santa's Toy Box in Watauga County by providing food gift cards to clients who receive toys for their children -- "so that they will have a meal for that holiday," Chapman said.
The Red Kettle Campaign originated in 1891, when Salvation Army Capt. Joseph McFee placed a large pot at a ferry landing to collect the funds he needed to feed 1,000 of San Francisco's poor on Christmas.
The kettle idea later spread to Boston and New York City, and today kettles are used to raise funds in Korea, Japan, Chile and many European countries in addition to the U.S.
The Salvation Army assists more than 4.5 million people during the Thanksgiving and Christmas time periods, according to its website.
Last year, the Red Kettle Campaign raised $41,000 in Watauga and Avery counties, and Chapman hopes to boost that amount to $45,000 this year.
"All the money that is raised through our Red Kettle campaign ... all the money that is raised here stays here," she said. "This is our major fundraiser for the year."
The campaign began the Friday before Thanksgiving and continues through Dec. 24.
Locally, kettles and bell ringers will be stationed at Walmart, Kmart, Walgreens, Belk, Lowes Foods, Harris Teeter, JC Penney and Ingles locations.
Shannon Marvin of Boone enjoyed the unseasonably warm temperatures -- hoping the rain would hold off, she said -- as she rang the bell for the campaign at Walmart on Thursday. It's her first year participating in the effort.
"People have been really generous," she said. "Some days are better than others."
To volunteer for the campaign or for more information, contact Chapman at (828) 262-1005 or michal_chapman@USS.SalvationArmy.org.