WASHINGTON — Wednesday marked the return of one of the oldest holiday traditions — bell ringers raising money outside retail stores standing next to those iconic Salvation Army red kettles.
The campaign dates back to 1891 to raise funds to support a wide range of community needs from providing food, coats, and toys to assisting with utility bills and transitional housing. The money raised during the holiday season funds initiatives throughout the year.
“We look at it as a holistic approach to helping people get back on their feet — from the street to their feet,” said Salvation Army Commander Major Chip Hall. “We have a broad spectrum of programs that we use the money for — everything from helping kids in our after-school program to an addiction specialty program for men,” he said.
Hall said the Salvation Army finds that one of the greatest needs is helping struggling families with their utility bills.
“This is important so that we can keep families from going on the streets. Because for many people, if your utilities are cut off, you are evicted from your housing. So we help them to stay warm, stay in their homes and we also help them with food,” he said.
Hall said the Salvation Army last year identified another need that wasn’t being adequately met in the D.C. region — short-term emergency housing for women who escape human trafficking.
“We saw that and have begun to address that need and will be opening up our new anti-human trafficking shelter soon,” he said.
Hall said unfortunately human trafficking — either for labor or sex — remains active in the D.C. region.
The goal for this year’s Red Kettle campaign is $1.4 million. That was also the fundraising goal last year — a goal that was met. But Hall points out that they will have one less day to ring those bells because Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday and kettles are not set out on Sundays.
Hall reminded donors that money given here remains in the region, and funds that are donated within each community remain in that specific community.
Hall said there are many ways to help and volunteers are critical to the success of the campaign. Learn more about volunteering as a Red Kettle campaign bell ringer at salvationarmynca.org/volunteer.