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Red Kettle Campaign kicks off

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | November 24, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Salvation Army volunteers are kicking off red kettles at area grocery stores beginning Friday.

"Many community members are struggling financially, and this campaign allows the Salvation Army to provide the assistance that is so desperately needed," said Janice Coquillard, Salvation Army field representative for northern Idaho, eastern Washington, and western Montana.

"The back-to-school event had many parents in tears as they stated what a blessing it was. The Salvation Army only raises donations once a year with our Red Kettle Campaign, so it is a very important time of the year."

Because of the many things covered by the funds, the campaign is critical to fundraising efforts, she said.

"It's a very important time of the year to raise donations for the community of Sandpoint," Coquillard said.

About 90% of the funds raised during the Red Kettle Campaign stay in the community to help residents with everything from rent and utilities to prescriptions, fuel, food, and emergency lodging. The Salvation Army only collects donations once a year through the Red Kettle Campaign, so this is a critical time of year, she added.

Donations also go toward a week-long summer camp at the Salvation Army's Camp Gifford. This camp is provided for low-income families at a cost of $25. In addition, funds go toward supplies for the Salvation Army's annual back-to-school event, which provides backpacks, supplies, and school shoes for families who need assistance.

"This past year, we served approximately 200 families and provided backpacks, school supplies, and school shoes," Coquillard said. "Over $10,000 was spent on this event alone."

The kettle drive is running now through Dec. 24.

Red Kettle sites include Super 1, Yoke's, Safeway, and Walmart. A bell-ringing shift can be one hour, two hours, or as many hours as you would like.

The Sandpoint Kiwanis will again be ringing their bell at Super 1 Foods every Saturday this season. However, there are four locations available for churches, groups, and individuals who want to volunteer to raise money for their friends and neighbors, Coquillard said.

At the end of a shift, bellringers are required to clean up the site and prepare for the next volunteer’s arrival. If the next shift does not show up or if it is the last shift, volunteers are instructed to return equipment to the designated area, and make sure the kettle is taken to a secure area for pick up, Coquillard said.

Coquillard has been a field representative for the Salvation Army for the past 20 years. In addition to organizing donations for the organization's Red Kettle Campaign in Sandpoint, she also oversees efforts throughout eastern Washington, northern Idaho and western Montana.

"It's a very busy time of the year for sure," she said.

As people walk by the kettle, they are always telling stories of how The Salvation Army came to their rescue, Coquillard said. But, she added her favorite and most heartwarming memories of past campaigns center around children, Coquillard said.

"On many occasions, children will bring their jar of coins they have collected all year and dump it into the kettle with a big smile on their face," she said. "I have seen a child be given several dollars to spend inside the store to buy whatever they wanted. Instead the child wanted to put in the kettle even after the parent explained that they wouldn’t be getting more money."

The red kettle at Christmas all began in 1981 when Captain Joseph McFee of the Salvation Army decided to serve a free Christmas dinner to the poor in San Francisco, California. He prayed for how he would afford to provide all the food for such a large project.

He thought back to his days on the waterfront in Liverpool, England, where a popular local eatery collected cash donations for the poor in a large soup kettle called "Simpson's Pot."

McFee wasted no time in getting the largest soup kettle he could find and placing it in a conspicuous spot on the Oakland Ferry Landing at the foot of Market Street. Passengers going to and from the ferry boats tossed their loose change into the kettle and before long McFee had enough funds to pay for the Christmas dinner.

Thus began a Christmas tradition that has spread throughout the world and continues to this day.

Anyone interested is invited to take part as there is always a need for bell ringers, said Coquillard. There are still openings at all four grocery stores. While hours are set in one-hour increments, volunteer bell ringers can set a longer shift of whatever timeframe works for them.

Bell ringers are needed from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday, or any day volunteers are available through Christmas Eve.

"[It's a chance to] team up with a friend and give back to your community as you volunteer your time to raise donations," she said.

Please email pamatsalvationarmybc@gmail.com  or you may call the Nazarene Church at 208-263-2562, ext. 206, to schedule a bell-ringing time.

The virtual kettle is also available to donate online. To donate, go online to sandpointredkettle.org.

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