Kevin Warren has been ringing bells for the Salvation Army for years and always looks forward to this season.
He knows it’s just a matter of days until the iconic red kettles and their accompanying bell ringers will be out around town, raising money for the venerable charity.
As Warren and the other longtime bell ringers ready themselves for the yearly Red Kettle Drive, the schedule and locations for the Salvation Army’s holiday bell ringers has been set by the charity’s officials.
Salvation Army officials say bell ringers will be stationed at Hobby Lobby, 5519 Coldwater Road; Rural King, 8801 U.S. Highway 24; Macys (in Glenbrook Square), 4201 Coldwater Road;, and several area Kroger stores starting on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, and staying until Christmas Eve, from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 9 a.m.-9 p.m. on Saturdays.
Founded in 1865 by a Protestant minister named William Booth, the Salvation Army’s initial aim was to convert poor residents of London to Christianity. To attract as many followers as possible, Booth provided the destitute with meals, clothing and other help.
Capt. Kenyon Sivels, a corps officer with the local Salvation Army, said money raised during the annual Kettle Drive goes to support a wide variety of Salvation Army initiatives, from the group’s rent and utility assistance programs, to the Charlotte Ministries effort to assist families with babies in the Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit, to financial aid to help send local children to a summer camp near Bedford, Indiana.
“Because the money stays local,” Sivels said, “it helps people who are often not able to get other kinds of help. These are people who are at risk of falling through the cracks.
“So, the Salvation Army is in a unique position to help meet these people’s needs. And we have a proven track record of doing a lot with a little; if someone donates to us, their dollar goes very far.”
Warren, who has been part of the charity drive since the year 2000, said he first got involved in the effort by being a member of the Time Corners Kiwanis Club, which has long partnered with the Salvation Army in the Red Kettle Drive.
He said he also enjoys working with students who volunteer to staff the kettles from the Key Clubs at New Tech (at Wayne High School), Homestead and South Side high schools.
“Our Kiwanis Club has been doing it for the last 20 years,” said Warren. “We always do it at the grocery store in the Village of Coventry.”
And the Salvation Army is always looking for more help ringing the bells. Those interested in volunteering can find out more by logging on to www.registertoring.com. Sivels added that he often is asked why his group doesn’t just leave the kettles out unstaffed for people to drop money into.
“We need folks to ring the bells,” Sivels said. “In our experience, no one puts anything in an empty bucket. It really requires that human interaction.”
Warren noted that the kettle drive isn’t just benefiting the Salvation Army and its charitable programs, but the community as a whole.
“It’s a simple way to give back to the community, and obviously, these days, there’s a tremendous need for it,” said Warren, a 63-year-old software engineer with Raytheon.
“Plus, it’s a way for our club members to get together and share a little time helping people, and to give the students who are a part of it something to be proud of, too.”