Red kettles, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and more

Published 10:07 am Thursday, November 29, 2012

Now that “Black Friday / Thursday” is over, and “Cyber Monday” has passed, the idea of “Giving Tuesday” has come. Amidst all the frenzied activity that is Christmas in the United States, sometimes we stop and ask, “Is this all there is to it?”

For all of us, the best prescription is to make Christmas a celebration of love and giving and to find that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Why not give to others by becoming a Salvation Army volunteer bell ringer? With more than 20 locations throughout the area, volunteers are needed to help keep the bell ringing this year.

The Salvation Army Red Kettles have become part of the holiday tradition, greeting shoppers with the tinkle-tinkle of bells, asking for aid for those in need.

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In 1891, Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee was distraught because so many poor individuals in San Francisco were going hungry. During the holiday season, he resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner for the destitute and poverty-stricken. He only had one major hurdle to overcome — funding the project.

Where would the money come from, he wondered. He lay awake nights, worrying, thinking, praying about how he could find the funds to fulfill his commitment of feeding 1,000 of the city’s poorest individuals on Christmas Day. As he pondered the issue, his thoughts drifted back to his sailor days in Liverpool, England. He remembered how at Stage Landing, where the boats came in, there was a large, iron kettle called “Simpson’s Pot” into which passers-by tossed a coin or two to help the poor.

The next day Captain McFee placed a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing at the foot of Market Street. Beside the pot, he placed a sign that read, “Keep the Pot Boiling.” He soon had the money to see that the needy people were properly fed at Christmas.

Six years later, the kettle idea spread from the west coast to the Boston area. That year, the combined effort nationwide resulted in 150,000 Christmas dinners for the needy.

In 1901, kettle contributions in New York City provided funds for the first mammoth sit-down dinner in Madison Square Garden, a custom that continued for many years. Today in the U.S., The Salvation Army assists more than four-and-a-half million people during the Thanksgiving and Christmas time periods.

Captain McFee’s kettle idea launched a tradition that has spread not only throughout the United States, but all across the world. Kettles are now used in such distant lands as Korea, Japan, Chile and many European countries.

Everywhere, public contributions to Salvation Army kettles enable the organization to continue its year-round efforts at helping those who would otherwise be forgotten.

The red kettle and bell ringing symbolize giving, volunteerism and a brighter Christmas expectation. And it’s time for bell ringers to start collecting money at grocery and retail stores in the FIVCO area . Salvation Army bell ringers began collecting donations in kettles on Nov. 23.

About this time of the year the Salvation Army solicits donations from customers entering stores. The collection provides Christmas presents to underprivileged children; stocks the Salvation Army food pantry, provides emergency and short-term housing to the community and helps general operations of the organization’s programs and services.

In business, it quite often costs money to make money. The Salvation Army is now in the same situation, forced to pay bell ringers minimum wage because of a lack of willing volunteers.

Of the 20 sites staffed on Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, only two had volunteers and both of those were short shifts.

“Volunteers are so important because any day a person volunteers is a day that they do not have to pay a bell ringer. If we have volunteers, we make more money and can help more people,” Major Darrell Kingsbury, Salvation Army commander, said. “We believe that, with the generosity of this community, we can attain our goal for this season and the upcoming year.”

Volunteers throughout the Tri-State can call (606) 324-5751 ext. 13 to volunteer.

The Ironton First Church of the Nazarene and the Ashland Plaza Church of the Nazarene will be hosting the Salvation Army Brass Band performing traditional Christmas songs this Sunday evening, Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. at the Ironton church, located on the corner of South Fourth and Pleasant streets. Also, Majors Darrell and Debbie Kingsbury will be sharing inspiring stories of the Salvation Army. We encourage you to attend this community event. You may call the church at 740-532-3413 with any question.

Pastor Rob Hale

First Church of the Nazarene