As shopping ramps up with Black Friday, so does the season of giving.
The Salvation Army's annual fundraiser, the Red Kettle Campaign, kicks off the day after Thanksgiving and encourages people to think of not only those in need during the holidays, but those who may find themselves in a bind some time later in the year.
The amount raised through the Kettle Campaign determines how much money the Salvation Army can spend in 2020 on its social services, such as programs like Meals on Wheels and its efforts to help those in risk of homelessness or who have fled an abusive situation at home, among other services. The campaign also helps fund the nonprofit's disaster relief efforts, which increased this year after the spring tornadoes in Lee County.
"To this day, we are still helping people," said Annabelle Tsui, executive director of the Salvation Army of Lee County. "The first two weeks it was headquarters and response teams, mobile kitchens and canteen units. We serviced close to 3,000 meals just in that first two weeks. Then after that, especially after 60-90 days, a lot of churches closed out their headquarters because they had to resume their Sunday school rooms and those kinds of things, and we became the go-to place."
Tsui said that last year's campaign donations declined somewhat from the amount raised for 2018, and she hopes to see an increase in funding this year.
"You always want to get more," she said.
So, how can the community help? Dropping cash or a check into the kettle in front of your local grocery store will certainly help, Tsui said, but there will only be a kettle out there to accept donations if community members are willing to volunteer to oversee it (and ring the little brass bell that is associated with the duty).
"The more volunteers we have, the more the income that can be raised," said Tsui.
She finds many volunteers in civic clubs, local officials and church groups. Some will make a day out of it, bringing their instruments or carols to sing. Tsui said volunteering can also make for a good activity for families and friends.
Those interested in volunteering should email or call Tsui at Annabelle.Tsui@uss.salvationarmy.org or 826-0073.
The Kettle Campaign will be ongoing this holiday season at the following locations: Walmart (Auburn and Opelika), Walmart Neighborhood Market, Kroger (Auburn and Tiger Town), Sam's Club, Winn Dixie (Auburn and Opelika), and Hobby Lobby.
The Salvation Army is also in the middle of its Angel Tree program, where community members can sponsor children and purchase Christmas gifts for them. To sponsor a child, pick up an Angel Tree tag from the trees located at the Salvation Army office at 1038 Opelika Road or at the Chick-fil-A in the Auburn Mall.
The tags offer information about the children and a deadline by which to turn in the gifts. The Salvation Army will distribute the gifts to the parents or guardians of the children before Christmas.