It’s that time of year again when locals will hear the bells of the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle program. Volunteers and workers started ringing outside Homeland Nov. 13 and will continue until Christmas Eve.
“I enjoy it. They helped me out a lot when I was a child. It’s very satisfying,” Bonnie Brown said, ringing the bell outside of Homeland Wednesday. She has been a paid volunteer for six years.
Starting on Black Friday, locations will expand to the north and south entrances of Wal-Mart, JCPenney, Stage and Big Lots in Ardmore, along with the Madill Wal-Mart, Sulphur Wal-Mart and Homeland in Marietta.
“A lot of people go shopping during that time period for Thanksgiving so it’s a great time to fundraise for our services, too, during that time,” Captain Nick Garrison explained. Garrison serves as the local core officer in Ardmore overseeing all operations along with his wife, Fallyn Cook Garrison.
Volunteers rotate Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in shifts ranging from two to eight hours.
“I volunteer because I give back what the Lord has given me, all the blessings,” Sherrie A. Daily said cheerfully. “We do so much good. We feed people five days a week except for the holiday. We have all kinds of things for the children. We’re ringing bells to gather money for everything, to help feed and do everything. Me, I volunteer, I sing, I give away lollipops, I fill my pot.”
The Salvation Army fills as many slots as it can with volunteers, adding paid bell ringers when necessary. They are currently still signing up bell ringers. For now, various church groups, civic clubs and families are signed up with a goal of $70,000 up from $65,000 last year.
“We always try to do a little bit more. All the money that’s raised in the kettle helps people that this time of year like with our Angel Tree program, but it also helps supply things throughout the entire year for the Salvation Army,” Nick said. “What you’re putting in the kettle right now will impact the food we’re serving people during the year through out Red Shield Diner and also helps with our shelter program, our emergency shelter and utility payments. The funds we raise through that go and impact the entire year not just during the Christmas season.”
Last years bell ringing alone raised $65,816.
“We’re hoping to see even better things this year and we want to make the best impact we can on the community,” he added.
These funds currently affect 207 families through Christmas assistance including 720 people and 358 children.
“Every family that came and signed up for us for Christmas assistance will receive a food box, for a nice holiday meal at Christmas time, and then any children that are 12 and under will receive toys and clothing through our Angel Tree program this Christmas.”
The Angel Tree program starts at 10 a.m. on Monday at Wal-Mart.
“Whether it be feeding people lunch at our Red Shield Diner, housing people in our homeless shelter and emergency shelter, helping pay somebody’s electric bill or giving out food baskets through our social service offices, those funds impact the Salvation Army year round in doing that. Its one of our largest fundraisers that we do in the Salvation Army,” he added.