Bell-ringers from the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign outside stores have long been a cheery sign of the holidays.
This week, they’ve returned to the entrances of Walmart in Chehalis. Soon, they’ll pop up in other locations, including both the Twin Cities’ Safeways and U.S. post offices, Chehalis Outfitters and, if there are enough volunteers, Brenda’s Country Market in Onalaska. The fundraiser will last until Dec. 24.
But their consistency may lead to being overlooked.
According to Captain Gin Pack, the Salvation Army of Lewis County, a Christian organization of its own denomination most similar to Methodists, is running more programs than ever out of its location on Gold Street in Centralia.
“(Red Kettle funds) aren’t (from) outside agencies, they’re non-government and it allows us to use those funds pretty unrestricted,” Pack said, later adding the campaign, “Invites the community to be a part of the investment.”
She gave an example of a Lewis County Drug Court participant who couldn’t pay fees to graduate due to the costliness of repairing a windshield and consistently incurring tickets from driving the car when they couldn’t afford to fix it. With the Red Kettle campaign, 100% of the dollars stay in Lewis County without strings attached, so the Salvation Army was able to use those to repair the individual’s windshield. Other examples included helping a guest of the nonprofit’s night-by-night shelter buy new tires for a wheelchair which were $1,500 at retail value.
The Salvation Army has a goal to raise about $79,000, or one dollar for each resident of Lewis County. Most years, Pack said, the goal is not met. But this year, after kicking off with a breakfast on Saturday, the organization received a $10,000 donation from a local church, which chose to remain anonymous. They’ll also have a match day on Dec. 10, where an anonymous donor will match every donation over $20.
In the card with its donation, the local church’s message read: “Your example of Jesus’ love and compassion to our community has stood out to us. … Our prayer is that this gift multiplies God’s work in our community to reach others with his love and compassion.”
Volunteers may be even more valuable than donors, though, Pack said. The Salvation Army of Washington will offer a grant for the local chapter that garners the most volunteers during the campaign. And without them, the kettles can’t be placed in as many locations.
In exchange for their name on the stand, businesses can sponsor the campaign in one of three ways: $50 for one day, $250 for one week or $600 for the whole season through Christmas Eve. Pack said the organization also provides meals for volunteers experiencing food insecurity.
The Salvation Army has had a year of floods, fires and serving those affected by the housing crises through rental programs and establishing the county’s only night-by-night homeless shelter.
Asked to summarize their work, Pack simply said: “We serve people.”
The Centralia location also has a food bank that gives away 40% of the food distributed by Lewis County’s nine food banks, Pack said.
The location offers clothing, hygiene, a Bible school and church services, a lunch program and targeted, personal assistance when necessary.
Pack added the Red Kettle campaign helps their team’s efforts to jump in and help first, then pay the bills later, especially in the several disasters they responded to over the last year.
Learn more, donate or sign up to volunteer at https://centralia.salvationarmy.org/. To speak directly with staff at the Centralia location, call 360-736-4339.