The Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign Rings in the Holiday Season

By Lucia Viti

Jacksonville — The Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle campaign is one of the world’s most recognizable outreach initiatives. The ringing bell and red kettle are synonymous with the holiday season. But for some, the holiday image represents hope - the promise of a warm meal, shelter, counseling, rehabilitation, disaster relief, evangelism, and services for children and seniors - regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or gender orientation.

By first assessing the needs of each community they serve - “to understand the obstacles, hardships and challenges native to the area’s particular population” - the Salvation Army builds short and long-term care programs in order to “continually optimize efficacy via spiritual, physical and emotional service.”

In addition to offering food and shelter to those in need, The Salvation Army’s food pantry offers supplemental groceries to income-eligible households every week. Their meal ministry program serves meals to the homeless and those who are food insecure every night.

Monies collected locally stay local. Jacksonville’s Red Kettle Campaign accumulated over $300,000 last year for Duval County residents.

Touting the theme, “Hope Marches On” for this year’s 130th anniversary, Major Keith Bigors, Area Commander of the the Salvation Army of Northeast Florida, described the year as “a joint to venture with the opening of the Salvation Army and its Red Kettle Program that began in 1891.”

Bigors shared his appreciation to volunteers who ring every year and requested the need for more to do so.

“It’s a wonderful experience for those who have never rung before and we appreciate all those who ring every year for us to make it possible to serve those in need each and every day without discrimination,” he said.

For those interested in ringing in any one of Jacksonville’s Salvation Army’s 48 locations, check out or call Rosa Nicholas 904-3014852.

The History of The Salvation Army

In 1852, William Booth began his career as a minister by preaching the Bible to London’s poor, homeless, hungry, and destitute. When fellow clergymen disagreed with Booth’s then unconventional approach, Booth withdrew from the traditional church to travel throughout England as an Evangelist with his wife Catherine. The Christian pair garnered followers that included thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards. A decade later, the now Christian Mission, had over 1,000 volunteers and evangelists. More than 25 years later, while reading the Mission’s annual report, Booth changed the term “The Christian Mission is a volunteer army” to “The Christian Mission is a Salvation Army.” Converts - now considered soldiers of Christ - became Salvationists who converted 250,000 Christians between 1881 and 1885 in Canada, Australia, France, Switzerland, India, South Africa, Iceland, and Germany. Today, The Salvation Army serves in 131 countries, offering God’s message of healing and hope to those in need.

In1891, Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee, distraught at the sight of San Francisco’s destitute, decided to feed the hungry. However feeding 1,000 of the city’s poorest was no easy task. Thinking back to his days as a sailor in Liverpool, England, he remembered The Simpson Pot, a large kettle pot that stood on the Landing Boat Ramp that was used to collect coins tossed in passers-by to feed the poor. The following day, Captain McFee placed a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing at the foot of Market Street with a sign that read, “Keep the Pot Boiling.” He did indeed collect enough money to feed the hungry.

By Christmas 1895, 30 West Coast Salvation Army Corps were using the kettle to pay for Christmas dinners for the needy. Fueled by its growing success, two Salvation Army officers were sent to launch the kettle campaign in Boston. The idea was again a success that continued to spread. By 1901, kettle contributions in New York City provided enough funds for a sit-down dinner in Madison Square Garden, a tradition that existed for many years.

Today in the U.S. alone, The Salvation Army assists more than four-and-a-half million people between the Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Mission Statement: The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.

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