Salvation Army of the Midlands confident it can reach $300k Red Kettle campaign fundraising goal despite bell-ringer shortage

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Published: Nov. 25, 2022 at 8:04 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - For decades, the sound of bells echoing at Midlands storefronts through the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign has signified hope and healing for those most in need.

But the long-heard tolling bell could ring silent this year at some locations, as there is a shortage of volunteer bell-ringers.

Despite the shortage, Major Mark Craddock, Area Commander for the Salvation Army of the Midlands, said he is confident that the Salvation Army will be able to reach its $300,000 fundraising goal.

“We understand and we know and we rely on the generosity of the Midlands communities, they have never let us down,” he said. “We are a generous community.”

There are around 50 kettle sites in the area, and on any given day the organization could use another 30 volunteers to help ring bells, according to Craddock.

All the money raised during the campaign, its largest fundraising effort of the year, goes directly to Midlands families who need it most. It will help with housing assistance and food instability throughout 2023.

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“The Salvation Army is very important to so many in the communities,” Regina Brown, a long-time volunteer, said. “There’s so many families that depend on the Salvation Army, not just during the holiday season, but all year long.”

Brown has been volunteering with the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign for more than two decades, and she encouraged others to get involved.

She said there is something special about these red kettles.

“I know the impact of what this kettle means and so this is what gets me back ringing every single year ringing the bell because I know that the funds that are collected are going to make a difference in someone else’s life,” Brown said. “And that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about me or anybody else, it’s about making a difference in somebody else’s life.”

The generosity of the Midlands was on full display during Black Friday at several kettle sites, including at the Walmart on Forest Drive.

One youngster, sharing in the giving spirit, grinned from ear to ear as he put some money in a kettle.

Tavares Hinton did not hesitate to drop a few dollars in the kettle. He said he did so while thinking about the future of his young daughter, and those who are less fortunate.

“If I see a red bucket, and they’re asking for donations, every time I walk past, I donate, no matter if it’s a dollar, two dollars, ten dollars,” he said. “I’m going to donate because I know there’s somebody out here that needs it.”

Hinton added, “Every little bit counts.”

The fundraiser runs through Christmas Eve.

$230,000 was raised through the efforts last year. Craddock said the organization hopes to raise more this year because its food costs have risen with inflation.

Additionally, the Salvation Army Angel Tree program aims to help Midlands children in need have a magical Christmas.

Through the program, the organization has made a pledge to provide toys to more than 2,500 children in the area.

“Right now we have all of maybe 100 toys so we’ve got a long way to go,” Craddock said. “We invite people to adopt kids for Christmas. Again, as long as your code numbers are kept with your gifts, your gifts go to your angel.”

More information on the Angel Tree program can be found here.

Donations to the Red Kettle campaign can be made in the form of cash at kettle locations, but can now also be made through a cell phone.

For the last few years, QR codes are posted near each kettle for digital donations.

There is also an opportunity to make donations online through the Salvation Army of the Midlands’ website.

To volunteer to ring bells, visit the organization’s website, or call 803-765-0260 and ask for Shannon.

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