The Salvation Army’s red kettle bell ringers can be found in front of stores throughout the county for another week.
The red kettle Christmas campaign, which began in 1891, is the organization’s most prominent fundraiser. The money raised in Surry County alone allows more than 900 families to be served during the holiday season, according to Randy Watson, human resource officer and accountant for the Salvation Army’s Mount Airy Corps.
“If it wasn’t for the bell ringing, we would not be able to provide Christmas for people like we do,” said Watson.
The kettles, along with angel tree donations, provide holiday meals and gifts for families who apply for Christmas assistance. “All of the angels are never taken off, so we buy extra toys and clothes with money from the bell ringing, making sure that every child on our angel tree has an outfit and a couple toys,” explained Watson.
The Christmas meal boxes contain a canned ham, instant mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing mix, macaroni and cheese, candied yams, corn and green beans. “It’s enough to provide a good Christmas dinner for a family,” said Watson, explaining the meals would not exist without funding from the kettles.
According to Watson, more people are requesting assistance now than when he began with Salvation Army 18 years ago. “The need has risen, not just at Christmas, but throughout the entire year,” he said.
Tom Paschal, Salvation Army church member and former officer, has been ringing since the age of 14. Serving at the Walmart in Elkin this year, Paschal said, “As a kid growing up in a single-parent family, I would have never had Christmas without the Salvation Army.”
Paschal explained bell ringing now is his way of paying it forward.
Diane Blakemore may be reached at 336-368-2222 or on twitter @PilotReporter.