The Red Kettle Campaign lasts from late November to Christmas Eve day, and provides about one third of the funds the Salvation Army receives. Bell ringers have received up to $144 million over the holiday shopping season. All funds collected in South Florida stay in the local community and are used to support families in need. Eighty-two cents of every dollar goes directly to support those in need. Needy families receive help with holiday dinners, utilities such as electric, and other needs. The Salvation Army members also visit hospitals and nursing homes, sharing the joy of the holidays with those who may not have family or friends near to celebrate with. The elderly who live alone are ministered to as well, through meal deliveries and gifting programs.
Reaching out to those in danger, especially due to the recent storms in Florida, Texas and Louisiana, The Salvation Army works with clubs like the Kiwanis Club, service organizations such as the United Way, and college teams like the Florida Panthers to provide relief. Major Keath Biggers, Commander for the South Florida area, described the efforts. “The Salvation Army provides whatever assistance through the social services: clothing vouchers, housing assistance, food pantry items, and other assistance. The Emergency Operations center provided over 4000 meals throughout Broward County. They received a call from a New York citizen concerned about her mother in Florida, who lived in Century Village. He brought her hot food and water and prayed for her. Thirteen to fifteen thousand residents of Century Village in Broward County were without power. He personally delivered water and food to the senior citizens. Many of them had been without a hot meal for a few days. They served meals and delivered ice and bottled water for a week. Martin County members assisted in helping the Salvation Army to aid those in Holly Manor, Pembroke Park and Century Village.”
They also shelter and feed the homeless through the holiday season. Approximately 70 percent of the bell ringer sites were occupied last year. This impacts the ability to aid people in the crisis situations the Salvation Army assists with. “A ringer can raise over $375: 24 beds for the homeless, 214 hot meals served in their dining facility, or 30 bags of groceries, or 8 nights of safe housing for families. By joining the Christmas Kettles Campaign, a ringer can help feed 120 homeless people in four hours. A volunteer can signup on the Salvation Army’s website or at tinyurl.com/Browardbells/, or www.salvationarmyftlauderdale.org. If you are in Palm Beach County or Martin County, you can search the website for a county to help in at salvationarmy.org.”
Angel Tree is a holiday event as well, with schools, businesses and other groups participating. The idea is simple: allow customers to choose an angel tag with the name of a child, the clothes and other items he or she needs, and a special gift desired for Christmas. Children fill out their information at the Salvation Army location nearest to them, then Salvation Army delivers the angel tags to the participants. The participants collect the gifts. Later the Salvation Army workers bring them to a warehouse for sorting and delivery. The warehouse becomes “Santa’s workshop” as the gifts are sorted and wrapped for the children. Angel Tree began when Captains Charlie and Shirley White discovered a card with three angels on it. They made each angel into a separate card, and put the names and needs of children on them. These were hung on the tree, and Angel Tree has been the name of the program ever since. Angel Tree brings the joy of Christmas to both the giver and the receiver: one young man remembered his first gift of a soccer ball, and chose to pass the joy along to another soccer lover. Sean Davis, the spokesman for the Salvation Army of Palm Beach County, said of the Angel Tree Program, “Usually kids get three gifts. It’s a wonderful way to help children who are probably going hungry. And they’re kids who were probably going to go without a gift because they really don’t have enough.”
The Salvation Army appreciates the support of the communities and counties in which they serve. For more information, visit salvationarmy.org.
Penni Bulten is a homeschooling mom who is fascinated with the Founding Fathers and their faith. She can be reached at [email protected].