Salvation Army kicks off Red Kettle Campaign

DOVER — Shoppers around Delaware will start to hear that familiar ringing of the bells while entering stores this weekend, as The Salvation Army begins its traditional Red Kettle Campaign for this holiday season.

The red kettle often evokes romantic images of people meandering into department stores to shop for Christmas presents, or entering grocery stores to secure their food on cold, blustery nights with snow gently falling from the skies.

However, this year, the Red Kettle Campaign is meeting head-on with modern technology, as each kettle manned by Salvation Army volunteers will feature Apple and Google Pay technology that will allow people to also donate via their smartphones.

“We are excited this year that we have gotten to the point with our kettle efforts where we can now accept your Apple and Google Pay right at the kettle, and I’m excited about that,” said Captain Timothy Sheehan, state coordinator for the Salvation Army. “I’m still the old guy who carries cash, but we now have that (smartphone) option that is available.

“One hundred and twenty-eight years ago, Captain (Joseph) McPhee, on a pier in San Francisco, started (the kettle campaign) with a pot looking for folks to make a donation, and now here we are saying to you 128 years later, ‘We’ll take your change, we’ll take your dollars, we’ll take your Apple and Google Pay.”

Captain Sheehan unveiled the news at a kickoff for this year’s Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign on Friday on the steps in front of Legislative Hall in Dover.
“It’s our goal this year across the state of Delaware in these red pots to raise $500,000,” he said. “You see that number and you go, ‘Oh, that seems like that’s a lot.’ With all of us across the First State pitching in our part — pennies, nickels, dimes, dollars, electronic pay — I’m sure in my heart and I know we can raise $500,000-plus.”

The Red Kettle Campaign is The Salvation Army’s biggest fundraiser and is the most iconic image associated with the organization. The Red Kettle campaign raised nearly $450,000 dollars in Delaware last year.

Dennis and Sharon Young moved to Smyrna last year and are now Kent County’s representatives for The Salvation Army. Both said they have met many kind and generous people since moving to the area and are optimistic they will be able to help the organization set a new giving record.

“In terms of being able to help those who are in need we’ve got great expectations that we will surpass last year’s fundraising goals and with the more funds we are able to raise, the more people we can help,” Mr. Young said. “So, we’re excited about that.”

He added that volunteers will be ringing bells for donations in front of 19 stores scattered around Kent County, from Smyrna to Dover to Milford.
Sharon Young is looking forward to getting things going this holiday season.
“I believe the people in Kent County are giving and they’re really going to help us out this year,” Mrs. Young said. “I believe there’s going to be a good spirit of giving. The ringing of the bells gives you that holiday feeling and it makes you want to help people. When you hear those bells, you feel a desire to help because you know that’s what it means — it means somebody is going to get blessed.”

Volunteers will be ringing their bells alongside big red kettles across the state of Delaware every day, except Sundays and Thanksgiving, from Friday’s kickoff event all the way to Christmas Eve.

Captain Sheehan said the money that is raised is not just used for the holidays, it is spread to assist numerous programs throughout the year, including emergency shelter, child care, senior centers, providing meals every day to the underprivileged, and offering activities to children, such as music, exercise, gym and basketball.

“Our newest cause that we have become a leading agency in is our anti-human trafficking program here in the state of Delaware and with a lot of partners are able to move forward and continue to rescue lives that are in some very unusual situations,” he said.

Friday’s kickoff at Legislative Hall featured a brass band playing Christmas carols, a couple of traditional red kettles and an inflated red kettle that stood 10-feet high. The odd thing was that temperatures were bearable in the low 50s under sunny skies.

“It’s always nice to kick off kettles on a nice, warm sunny day because then, when we get closer and it snows, your heart gets to feeling more sympathetic to those (volunteers) who are standing by kettles in the wind and the snow and all that kind of good stuff and you put a little more (in the kettle),” Captain Sheehan said. “You’ve heard the music, so you know what that means. It’s that time of year for the Salvation Army red kettles to hit the street as we look to raise some updated funds to support the folks who come through our doors every day looking for assistance.”

He added that the funds raised will help struggling individuals and families in local communities.

“Our red kettle is still out in an effort to provide the much-needed funding that we need to help people, not only during the holidays but they come to us every day,” said Captain Sheehan. “We see people coming to us every day for the basic needs of life. They get to a point in life where they have to make some tough decisions, ‘Do I buy groceries or do I pay rent?,’ or ‘Do I buy my prescriptions or do I buy groceries?,’ and the Salvation Army now, for more than 150 years has been there around the world meeting the needs of those who come through the door.

“We only do that with partners like you, our donors. It’s not an ‘us’ show, it’s a ‘we’ show. It takes all of us pulling together.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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