New Castle News

November 11, 2013

Salvation Army launches Red Kettle Campaign

Dan Irwin
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Salvation Army Captains Geoff and Mari Swires have a bucket list.

Providing Christmas gifts for local children in need is certainly on it. But the annual Red Kettle Campaign, which kicked off Saturday morning in New Castle at Shop ’N Save in Westgate Plaza, funds far more than holiday happiness.

“This is our largest fundraiser of the year,” Capt. Geoff Swires said. “The Red Kettle Campaign provides 70 percent of our annual income. Right now, we have 350 children signed up, and we’re still taking applications.

“But the donations from Red Kettle Campaign aren’t just for Christmas. They help us feed people and provide other items throughout the year. During the recent government shutdown, the number of people seeking our help tripled in a week. And with food stamp cutbacks, we’re seeing more people come in for food.”

Last year, New Castle residents donated $62,000 to the local Red Kettle campaign. This year’s goal is $70,000.

From its humble beginnings as a Salvation Army captain’s startup program in 1891 in San Francisco, the Red Kettle Campaign has grown into one of the most recognizable and important charitable campaigns in the United States. It provides toys for kids, coats for the homeless, food for the hungry and countless social service programs year-round. As part of the campaign, more than 25,000 Salvation Army volunteers throughout the country ring bells and solicit donations to the red kettles.

Throughout western Pennsylvania, there are 38 Salvation Army Worship and Service Centers, 10 Service Centers and more than 104 Service Units that will be teaming up to reach a regional goal of just over $2.7 million.  Goals are based on each of the facility’s individual budgets.

“Both our donors and our client families are still feeling the sting of the financial downturn,” said Major William H. Bode, The Salvation Army’s Western Pennsylvania Divisional Commander.  “It is critical that we meet these goals because thousands of families are relying on us.”

Contributors should also know, Bode noted, that kettle dollars stay in the communities where they are given.

If you can’t make it out to a business or shopping center where Salvation Army bell ringers are staffing the Red Kettles,  you can donate online at www.OnlineRedKettle.org. The Salvation Army also enables donors to support the campaign through their mobile phones by texting  “GIVEPGH” to 80888 to make a $10 donation to support the campaign.  The gift will appear as a charge on the donor’s next mobile phone bill.

Volunteers are needed to staff Red Kettle sites, and groups are encouraged to participate. Swires noted that some high school students are volunteering in order to fulfill their community service requirements, and he welcomes more.

The Salvation Army also offers a free update for the iPhone virtual “Bellringer” application by logging onto bellringer.salvationarmyusa.org.  This free app enables friends and supporters of The Salvation Army to share in the tradition of being a Salvation Army bellringer by ringing a virtual bell right on their phone.

Locally, applications for Christmas help will be taken by the Salvation until Thanksgiving.

Anyone wanting more information about how to register for help or to become a Red Kettle volunteer may call the local Salvation Army at (724) 652-7921.

(Email: d_irwin@ncnewsonline.com)