Area bell-ringing season returns
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in stores across the Kanawha Valley. Bell-ringers with their ubiquitous red kettles are turning up everywhere.
Not surprisingly, people aren't much in the mood for it all until they get that big Thanksgiving meal behind them.
Cap. Aaron Goldfarb, commander of the Charleston Area Salvation Army, said this year's kettle kickoff started Nov. 2 - about the same time as last year - and will continue through Christmas Eve.
"Most people's brains are not geared up to give to charity until the day after Thanksgiving," Goldfarb said. "There's something about that date that tells people not only do I have to buy gifts for my kids, I have to give to charity.
"We've been doing it earlier than that for several years, but donor fatigue sets in," he admits. "Most people give every time they see a kettle, but it's a burden."
That Salvation Army's goal for local donations this year is $225,000. The nonprofit group collected about $10,000 more than that last year through kettle gifts.
"But our mail appeal was down by about $35,000," Goldfarb said. "So we ended up less."
That money goes directly to local community services, he explained.
"We buy toys for children for Christmas, food boxes, food cards, boys and girls clubs and our social services program, like utility and food assistance, eviction assistance, medical prescriptions."
That familiar kettle has been around a long time - the Salvation Army has existed since 1880 in America and began in Charleston in 1904. And while bell ringers are often volunteers, Goldfarb said the organization has to pay some employees to keep its 36 kettle locations manned.
"We use civic organizations for volunteers, Boy Scouts, families, Sunday School classes," he said. "That's how we stretch our resources. But we only have about 30 groups that agree to ring one day for us."
The Salvation Army strikes an agreement to allow bell ringers to be stationed at many companies nationwide. This year, Cabela's contacted them to set up a kettle station outside the new Southridge store.
"They are really excited for us to be out there," Goldfarb said. "We took our kettle and stand and camouflaged it."
He said the group depends upon the holiday kettle campaign as its primary fundraiser for the entire year.
"We want people to use this as a way to help their community," he said. "When you put money in the kettle, you offer hope and you offer a better future. It's a direct, tangible way to impact the community."
For a complete listing of red kettle locations, or to volunteer as a bell ringer, call 304-343-4548.
Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4832