Red Kettle Reasons

Donations from the campaign help The Salvation Army provide shelter, food and more

Thousands of Salvation Army bell ringers work the Red Kettle campaign each year during the Christmas season. The money they raise goes not just to The Salvation Army but specifically to The Salvation Army in their area, where approximately 82 cents of every dollar donated helps with programs and services.

The programs the money helps first are Christmas-related: Angel Tree, providing gifts for children and seniors, and holiday meals for families and seniors in need as well as at Salvation Army soup kitchens. However, after that, the money goes to fund the other programs and services The Salvation Army offers.

The emergency shelter is one of the main services provided by The Salvation Army, and it’s one of the things Red Kettle contributions go towards.

One of the main services provided at many Salvation Army locations is an emergency shelter. This definitely includes beds for adult men and women and may also include family rooms, which accommodate parents with children.

“The biggest thing the Red Kettle helps with is keeping our emergency shelter doors open,” said Lt. Dominique Darby of the Richmond, KY Salvation Army. “Every day, it opens at 6 in the evening and then closes at 7 the next morning.”

Capt. Mark Love of the Clarksville, TN Salvation Army said it takes a lot to run a shelter. “Typically, a shelter of our size takes somewhere around a half a million dollars a year to run. That’s to keep the lights on, pay all the staff and the utilities and keep things maintained. All that is a lot.”

Lt. Doug Monroe noted that while there are other shelters nearby in Ohio and West Virginia, The Salvation Army shelter in Ashland is the only one in Kentucky within two and a half hours. Besides the big expenses like utilities and staff salaries, he noted other shelter expenses like food (dinner and breakfast) and laundry costs.

“Doing laundry for that is expensive,” he said.

He added that come January, the Ashland Salvation Army will get the Pathway of Hope program, which tries to help families and stop generational poverty. He’s excited for that but a little concerned about how it will affect the emergency shelter’s space.

“The Pathway of Hope will have a couple of apartments, so that will limit the beds on the men’s side. We don’t want to lose our emergency shelter; we want to be a combination.”

Two other Salvation Army offerings that dovetail with the shelter are soup kitchens and social services case managers. Case managers can assist shelter clients and other low-income people with things like finding a job, getting clothing vouchers to the Salvation Army Thrift Store, discovering necessary resources (including social security disability), learning about finances/budgets and getting bus fare to jobs or other necessary locations.

Food boxes are an important part of The Salvation Army’s social services, making them something important to fund.

Another important social service is food distribution, be it food pantries or food boxes.

“When a client comes to us, they receive a box every month [including November and December boxes with holiday assistance]. We average about 75 boxes a week,” said Major Jayne May of the Jackson, TN Salvation Army. “We hope it helps them supplement their food stamps. Most of our clients in our food box program are seniors, and they don’t get a lot in food stamps, so this helps them make up for what their food stamps don’t cover.”

She said The Salvation Army is a member of Memphis’ Mid-South Food Bank, which not only covers purchases from the food bank but also allows the organization to partner with Sam’s and Target, which give away nearly expired meat, bread and pastries. The meat, especially, is important for seniors.

“You might get $15 in food stamps, and if you’re trying to buy meat for $15, it’s not going to work; that’s why getting a food box every month assures us that seniors hopefully will get meat in their bodies.”

Many Salvation Army locations also help people with rent and utility assistance. Monroe said Ashland does whenever there’s funding, which unfortunately isn’t often. In Richmond, that uses a big portion of the Red Kettle money, Darby said.

“We provide utility assistance through our social services office, and a big chunk of the Red Kettle goes to that. We have folks in our community who might need a little help with their utilities, so we provide about $50 off a utility bill, working with different utility companies.”

One other social service the Jackson Salvation Army offers (as do other locations, according to May) is bus tickets for people to get out of the city in certain situations. She said they average one every other month, and each one usually costs less than $100.

“If somebody gets stranded here and they want to go home, we first verify that they’re going home by talking to their parents or siblings at the other end. Or if there’s a job offer elsewhere, we verify with that employer. We’re not just putting them on a bus to get them out of here; we make sure they actually have a place to go. 

“It’s usually where somebody followed a significant other or thought there was a job here that wasn’t and now they’re stranded,” she added. “If they can get home or there’s a job waiting for them and all they’re lacking is a way to get there, we can help.”

Children’s programs, including music ministry, are staples of The Salvation Army programming and paid for in part by Red Kettle donations.

In a different vein from those social services, one thing many Salvation Army locations do is a character-building program for children. This is broken into three groups: Sunbeams for younger girls, Girl Guard for older girls and Adventure Corps for boys.

“Our character-building program is big in our city. We have 50 or 60 kids that come every week,” said May. “That’s our most successful program outside of social services.”

“The character-building program goes along with the programs of the church,” Love said. “It’s specifically to help them learn Christian character and Christian integrity but in a fun environment. It just really builds into kids’ lives.”

He added that Clarksville also has a kids’ music ministry. That’s something the Richmond Salvation Army has too, after it started the program last year.

“We just got a big donation of musical instruments this summer, so we’ve started partnering with the Eastern Kentucky University music educators. They’ve been coming over and doing private lessons with the kids; they give musical lessons in guitar, piano and brass instruments,” Darby said.

Of the children who attend, she added, “We get kids from some of the harder neighborhoods in our community. They are very much in flux; we get a new group every three months. We lose a lot to Child Protective Services or they get displaced from their homes. We get a lot of kids who we try to pour as much as we can into them because we know we’re not going to have them for very long.”

So, remember, if you donate to a Red Kettle during Christmastime, you’re helping for a much longer time than that.