The traditional red kettles are out all over town, and The Salvation Army hopes people fill them.
Capt. Joanna Robinson said the red-kettle campaign “is the biggest campaign we have. That’s our income for the whole year, what we make on the kettles,” she said.
Her husband, Capt. David Robinson, said last week that the campaign is off to a shaky start.
“We’re running about $5,000 behind where we were last year,” he said.
Last year, the red-kettle campaign collected $118,000, which was more than the year before, he said.
Challenges this year include timing and the weather.
“This year is the first year that Thanksgiving falls so late. … We’re actually missing out on five days of bell ringing,” David said.
The kettle campaign runs from Nov. 19 until Dec. 24, but they cannot be placed at “a lot of our locations,” including Walmart, until after Thanksgiving, he said.
Also, he said the rain and sleet one day in November “knocked us off” the kettles.
The day before Thanksgiving, employees had to scramble to find substitutes for bell ringers, he said.
“I’ve got a lot of repeat people doing it, but like today, it’s cold; it’s not supposed to get out of the 30s,” he said on Nov. 27.
“Out of 14 kettles, I had six people call in. All of a sudden, they had a fever,” he said.
Individuals are paid minimum wage to ring the bells when volunteers aren’t available — the majority of the time — and David said he hopes to get more volunteers.
“Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, any club, any group, Sunday School classes — we would love to have them ring,” he said.
“We have a lot of one-hour volunteers all over everywhere,” he said.
On Monday, he said, 15 kettles were out, and he had only one volunteer group.
“This is our one big-money fundraiser that we actually go out into the public,” he said. “It helps us with anything we do at Christmas, plus how we can stretch it throughout the year as far as helping those in need in our community.”
The kettle campaign officially kicked off Nov. 23 at the University of Central Arkansas football game, and First Security Bank president Johnny Adams made the first donation, David said.
The donations pay for social services, including the food boxes given out monthly, or in case of emergency. The Salvation Army gets food from the Rice Depot once a month, “but sometimes we run out and have to go buy a little here and there,” he said.
“This [kettle money] allows us to do that and allows us to help people with their rent and utilities,” he said.
Unclaimed angels from Project Angel Tree are adopted by The Salvation Army, “and if we have to go buy stuff, that’s where part of that money goes.”
Joanna said the money also pays the electric bill “that keeps the lights on at The Salvation Army.”
The Salvation Army Conway Corps covers Faulkner, Perry, Cleburne and Van Buren counties.
Three kettles are in Heber Springs, he said, and one was placed at the Walmart Supercenter in Clinton on Friday.
Joanna said she understands that people sometimes avoid the kettles.
“If you’ve given, fine, tell people, ‘I’ve already given.’ I feel guilty even going by a kettle when I walk into a store,” she said, laughing.
Every little bit helps, though, she said.
“A quarter, a nickel — it all adds up.”
To volunteer to ring a bell, or for more information about The Salvation Army, call
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.