Salvation Army bell-ringers benefiting from warm weather

This year’s unseasonable temperatures don’t feel like Christmastime in the east, but they have benefited the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign.

“Actually the warm weather has been good for us because when the weather is bad, people tend to dash by, but they’re more relaxed with this kind of weather,” said Major Vic Tidman, director of Salisbury’s Salvation Army.

Another advantage is that, all of the businesses that allowed bell ringers to settle in front of their entrances have welcomed them back this year.

“We really do appreciate that because they make the whole thing possible. There was a time when all of our bell ringing was done on public streets because that’s where all the businesses were. Now, they are all in private malls,” he said.

Last year, about $250,000 was raised, and Tidman hopes to reach or exceed that amount this year. Although the average person donates only 78 cents, Tidman said he finds it “mind boggling when you think about the large amount of money we raise.”

“It’s not a big money campaign but there are lots of people making lots of donations,” he said.

The bell ringing campaign started in 1891, when the Salvation Army’s Capt. Joseph McFee wanted to raise money to have a free Christmas dinner for 1,000 poor people in San Francisco.

According to historical accounts, McFee remembered that, when he was a sailor in Liverpool, England, iron kettles were positioned where boats docked. Passersby tossed coins into the Simpson’s Pots to help the destitute.

McFee put a pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing in San Francisco with a sign urging, “Keep the pot boiling.”

He raised enough to feed the hungry. Today, more than four million people receive help during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“The kettle campaign started very early on in our movement,” Tidman said, adding there are 25 locations in Wicomico, Worcester and Somerset counties. The number fluctuates year to year. To volunteer, call 410-749-RING.

“We call Christmas our Red Kettle Campaign. We get some funds in the mail from people who answer mail appeals. We get some walk-in donations. But the Salvation Army raises about 60 percent of its budget during the kettle campaign, in the last half of October, November and December,” he said.

The familiar bell will continue to be heard daily, except Sundays, until the afternoon of Christmas Eve, when the pace of shoppers slows.

“We use these funds in many different ways. I have all the clichés I can use like, ‘The bell is, for some people, a dinner bell’ and ‘Change goes in and changes goes out.’

“The kettle allows us to do everything we do during the year. It enables us to buy uniforms for kids in sports programs, to give food baskets all year long, to help send children to summer camp,” Tidman said.

“So that certainly is true. Change really does come out.”


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