Donations to Red Kettles stay in Morrison County

More bell ringers are needed

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

The Red Kettle Campaign is in full swing around the world, including Morrison County. Directed by the Salvation Army, the event kicked off the day after Thanksgiving and will continue until Christmas.

The Salvation Army places red kettles in high traffic areas as its annual fundraiser. Pictured ringing the bell at the Walmart in Little Falls is Deanna Thompson, the board chair of the Morrison County Salvation Army Service Unit.

While many people think  a good percentage of the donations to large organizations such as the Salvation Army go to administration, Tim Poland, the client representative for the Morrison County Salvation Army, said 11 percent of the Red Kettle donations do go to Twin Cities headquarters for administration costs. But, 89 percent goes into the budget for the county where the money was collected.

“In other words,” he said, “the money collected in the Red Kettles in Morrison County stays in Morrison County. Portions of the 11 percent are also set aside to help with major weather disaster services, the Salvation Army HeatShare program and summer camps for children, all in Minnesota.”

Deanna Thompson, the board chair of the Morrison County Salvation Army Service Unit, said the money collected for Morrison County goes to emergency food services, gas or a hotel room for a stranded motorist. It will also help with eviction notices, car repairs, clothing, school supplies, utilities and other emergency services.

The Salvation Army in Morrison County is still fairly new, only 20 years old, and not many people know to contact them when in need. But the organization receives referrals from the Sheriff’s Department, churches, Tri County Community Action and school social workers. Since its inception, the demand for help has increased.

“But the donations are decreasing,” said Poland. “The balancing act of ensuring the programs are covered is getting harder. If we have a bad collection year, it affects how we help others.”

This year, the Red Kettle bell ringers are sparse and will only be found at Walmart in Little Falls.

“We would love to expand to other sites in town, but we need ringers to commit to a few hours,” said Poland. “We do have great support from the community, but we can always do better.”

Thompson said that the Red Kettle program is a great way for the youths of the area to do their community service through school or church.

“It’s a great way to serve,” she said, ensuring that people who need documentation for community service work will get it for ringing the bell.

On Friday, local realtors will be ringing the bell for the Salvation Army at Walmart all day and Saturday, Dec. 8, Walmart staff will be helping out.

“We even have The Royalton School mascot ringing the bell Saturday, Dec. 15,” Thompson said.

To donate two hours of time ringing the bell for the Red Kettle program, contact Thompson at (320) 632-1657.

For assistance with an emergency, contact Poland at (320) 632-9140.

“We are a small organization in Morrison County and need the assistance,” said Poland, who said the Salvation Army of Morrison County is also looking for people to sit on the Board, which meets monthly.

The Salvation Army Red Kettle program began in 1891 in San Francisco, Calif., when a captain in the organization, Joseph McFee, wanted to provide a free Christmas dinner to the area poor.

He remembered his days as a sailor stationed in Liverpool, England. There, people had set out a large pot and those passing by would toss in a few coins as donations.

McFee received permission from the city officials to do the same and collected enough money to feed the poor at Christmas.

Four years later, 30 Salvation Army corps on the West Coast were using the kettle. The fundraising event was then incorporated on the East Coast.

Today, Red Kettles are used around the world, in Asia, Europe, North and South America. It is the hope of the Salvation Army to bring the spirit of Christmas to people who would otherwise be forgotten.