Opinion: The Salvation Army's legacy of giving

John Turner
Turner writes: "Our kettles remain a symbol that brings back the spirit of Christmas along with the sounds of the ever-familiar bell ringing."

In December 1891, the Salvation Army’s Capt. Joseph McFee in San Francisco resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner to the poor. But how would he pay for the food? The question stayed on his mind until he recalled his days as a sailor in England when he would see passersby throw charitable donations into a large pot where boats came in at the Stage Landing.

The next morning, he secured permission from the authorities to place a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing, at the foot of Market Street. No time was lost in securing and placing the pot where all those going to and from the ferryboats would see it. And thereby, Capt. McFee launched the red kettle fundraising tradition.

Fast forward to today, and you now see hundreds of our iconic red kettles at various retail stores around the metro area, heralding the start of the 2018 Red Kettle Season. In 1898, New York World hailed the Salvation Army’s kettles as the “newest and most novel device for collecting money!”

While they are certainly no longer novel, our kettles remain a symbol of the Salvation Army that brings back the spirit of Christmas along with the sounds of the ever-familiar bell ringing. Public contributions to kettles enable The Salvation Army to bring the spirit of Christmas to those who would otherwise be forgotten all year long – to the ill, the incarcerated, the aged and lonely, the poor and unfortunate.

More importantly, kettle donations help support those in need right here in the metro Detroit area. Poverty remains prevalent here in our metro Detroit community. Some are just temporarily down on their luck due to a job loss or other financial circumstance, but others are victims of intergenerational poverty. While the Salvation Army provides feeding and sheltering to address the foundational need, we provide much more than that. Once basic human needs for food and shelter are met, individuals and families need greater support to help them break the cycle of poverty.

Our Red Kettle Campaign goal this year is $8.2 million. That is a daunting number, I know, but every dollar is needed to help our community. If you are a business that depends on a thriving local community, please know that donations to The Salvation Army will pay dividends over and over again by helping to make our neighborhoods stronger. And if you are an individual or family, know that we will put your donations to good use with 87 cents of every dollar going directly to provide assistance.

When you donate to the Salvation Army, your gift will truly make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. In addition to monetary donations, we are also in need of volunteer bell ringers to fill hundreds of shifts. We love to welcome new corporate and community volunteers to our ranks and I can guarantee that every volunteer gets more out of the experience than they put into it.

As we count our blessings in 2018, both personally and professionally, I ask that you take a moment to reflect on those who are less fortunate.

If you would like to experience first-hand, the great things The Salvation Army does, I welcome you to visit one of our Corps Community Centers or visit our website at www.salmich.org. To sign up to be a bell ringer, please visit www.ringbell.org.

Have a blessed holiday season!

Lt. Colonel John Turner is divisional commander for the Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division.