Red Kettlers hit the streets for Salvation Army campaign

By: Jennie Miller | Southfield Sun | Published December 7, 2011

 Mel Johnson, 58, of Royal Oak has been a member of the advisory council for the Salvation Army Royal Oak Corps since 1995. He volunteered to ring bells at 
Hollywood Market in Royal Oak on five different  days this holiday season.

Mel Johnson, 58, of Royal Oak has been a member of the advisory council for the Salvation Army Royal Oak Corps since 1995. He volunteered to ring bells at Hollywood Market in Royal Oak on five different days this holiday season.

Photo by Jennie Miller

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SOUTHFIELD — The holidays have their traditions, things that typically pop up this time of year. There’s Santa Claus, his reindeer, gingerbread men and jingle bells.

And there’s also the red kettles. Not quite part of the holiday story, but a tradition all the same.

“It’s a very familiar common thing that people see on the streets of Christmas time,” said Maj. Curtis Hartley of the Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division, which annually runs the Red Kettle Campaign, raising money to help the needy with volunteers stationed at local venues, ringing bells.

With more than 400 spots in the Wayne, Oakland and Macomb County area alone, it takes many of volunteers to run the operation. Red Kettlers can be seen at Kroger, Walmart, J.C. Penny, Sam’s Club, Macy’s, Walgreens, Gordon Foods and Salvation Army Family Thrift Stores, as well as many other local businesses.

The money raised goes right back into the community.

“Folks can be confident that they’re putting money in their local communities,” Hartley said. “That money stays right here. The Salvation Army has about 40 locations throughout the area where we serve individuals where it’s on-the-spot case management, providing meals, overnight shelter, warm clothing. Helping our neighbors throughout the year — that’s what that money at Christmas pays for.”

This year the goal is $8.2 million, which is nearly a half a million dollars more than last year’s totals. A lofty mission for the organization celebrating its 125th anniversary in Detroit.

“It’s a sizeable goal that we’re looking at raising,” Hartley said. “We understand with the difficult economy that it’s tough to raise money, but at the same time we’re seeing that as folks are struggling through the economy, people realize that there are people struggling more than them. Folks are very compassionate, very giving, and they’ll dig deep and give whatever they can. Folks walk by and drop a $5 bill or a $20 bill — whatever’s in their pockets — knowing that money is going to help their neighbors or someone in need.”

Those goals couldn’t be met without the caring individuals who donate, or the selfless souls who stand outside, ringing the bells, sharing a smile with shoppers and manning the red kettles.

Mel Johnson, 58, of Royal Oak, has been a member of the advisory council for the Salvation Army Royal Oak Corps since 1995. He volunteered to ring bells at Hollywood Market in Royal Oak for four hours on five consecutive Mondays in support of the Red Kettle effort.

“Having seen what they do for the community, they have a special place in my heart,” Johnson said of the Salvation Army. “Watching kids in needy families pick out gifts at Christmastime — for me to give a few hours a night a few times a year compared to what they’re going through — it’s nothing.”

Within the Red Kettle Campaign, 85 cents of every dollar given goes directly to fund programs that change lives.

“In the Detroit area, the Salvation Army served more than 3 million meals last year with that money,” Hartley said. “There were about 700,000 nights of shelter provided to homeless men, women, children and families.”

Not only can the public donate through the red kettles at local businesses, they can also donate through the organization’s website, www.salmich.org.

“There are lots of ways to contact your local Salvation Army and support the work, and they know that their money can go directly to help folks in the metro Detroit area,” Hartley said. “We really do depend on our neighbors to provide us the financial tools to be able to provide that work throughout the year. We’re grateful to be able to service, and grateful for a caring, giving community.”

For more information, visit www.salmich.org or call (248) 443-5500.

 

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