“Help rescue Christmas,” reads the plea on the front page of the Salvation Army of Dane County website.
In case you missed it, the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign kicked off on Friday, Nov. 13, with about 24,000 hours to fill for bell ringers to staff its 66 kettle locations in Dane County.
“Our ultimate goal is to serve all families and single women who come to us in need of services this winter, to keep them safe from the cold, to provide meals and warm beds,” said Steve Heck, director of operations and development. “Donations of time while ringing or to the virtual and in-person kettles make a real difference in the lives of those we serve.”
And the lives of those served by Salvation Army of Dane County are significant in number and importance.
The Salvation Army of Dane County figures it is serving triple the number of people in emergency shelter and seeing a 155% increase in requests for services due, in part, to the pandemic.
As if that is not a significant enough mountain to climb, consider that in 2019 at this time, nearly 4,600 volunteer hours were scheduled compared to this year’s 1,642 hours.
If response continues as it is currently -- filling only about a quarter of the shifts required for a successful campaign -- the forecast for a successful Red Kettle Campaign in Dane County is in serious jeopardy.
That’s unfortunate, because it is not in keeping with the spirit of the Red Kettle Campaign, which began in in 1891. That’s when Salvation Army Capt. Joseph McFee was distraught because so many poor individuals in San Francisco were going hungry.
During the holiday season, McFee resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner for the destitute and poverty-stricken. He only had one major hurdle to overcome -- funding. McFee placed a small kettle at the Oakland Ferry Landing at the foot of Market Street. Beside the pot, he placed a sign that read, “Keep the Pot Boiling” and soon had the money to see needy people were fed at Christmas.
Money raised by Salvation Army bell ringers makes a year-round impact in the Dane County community through social services assistance, homeless shelters, disaster relief, children’s programs, rehabilitation services, anti-human trafficking, and more.
In other words, donations in the iconic Salvation Army Red Kettle stay local – directly impacting the lives of friends and neighbors by helping them in their time of need.
The Salvation Army of Dane County has already secured some corporate help to reach its lofty goals this year by using what it calls “Match Day” sponsors. That means these sponsors will match donations raised on their corresponding days:
Associated Bank, Wednesday, Dec. 2; Miron, Saturday Dec. 5; One Community Bank, Saturday, Dec. 12; and Midlands Psychological, Saturday, Dec. 19.
Depending on where you want to ring your bells, you may already be able to sign up for those locations. Ringers are already jingling at Sun Prairie locations like Cabela’s, Pick’n Save and Woodman’s Market.
Beginning Nov. 21, ringers will be able to staff the kettles at Walmart, 1905 McCoy Road; and both Sun Prairie Walgreens locations at 275 Davison Drive and 546 N. Grand Ave.
The time is now and, thanks to COVID-19, the need is greater than ever. Ringers can sign up online at RingBellsDane.org or by calling 608-250-2283.