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Salvation Army Kokomo Launches Annual Red Kettle Campaign 

Photographer / Jim Hunt

After a tough year of coronavirus-related restrictions and economic stresses, the Kokomo Salvation Army is kindling the Christmas spirit. The cheerful sound of ringing bells associated with their Red Kettle Campaign is raising spirits, as passersby donate coins or bills to aid those that need a helping hand. Their theme this year is “Rescue Christmas,” and the funds raised will make the holidays brighter for local residents who have fallen on hard times.  

Kokomo Salvation Army

“A lot of people here in Howard County have been affected by negative financial things going on,” says Lieutenant Joey Gates of the Kokomo Salvation Army. “A few businesses have closed. Some families are living paycheck to paycheck, and don’t know where their next meal is coming from or if they will be able to pay rent. Our goal this year is to raise $68,000. The funds go to food pantries, or provide financial assistance that can help pay part of a rent or utility payment. If the need is greater, we can point them toward where they can go to receive more assistance.”

Bright-red kettles will be seen outside of participating stores through December 24. This year they can be found around Kokomo at Hobby Lobby, Rural King, Walmart, and the Kroger stores at North Dixon Road and South Washington Street. Hours of operation are slightly different from previous years.

“The kettles and ringers will be in place Monday through Saturday,” Gates says. “The hours used to be 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. I have been doing this in different cities for over eight years now. I took my knowledge and expertise plus some research, and decided to set the hours to 11:00 a.m. to 7 p.m. Of course, it can be adjusted if a volunteer group of ringers can only work certain times.”

Being a kettle ringer is a great volunteer opportunity for church groups, families, office workers or students needing service hours. It is also possible to be a virtual bell ringer. Individuals or volunteer teams can set up their own online campaign to benefit the Kokomo Salvation Army. After seeing kettle posts on social media sites like Facebook, friends, family, or visitors to a business page can contribute through secure links that directly benefit Kokomo.

The Salvation Army prefers to use volunteer ringers, but sometimes they need to hire people for the job. The starting pay is minimum wage, and ringers who work for a couple of seasons can receive increases. Those interested can call the Salvation Army office to apply.

Kokomo Salvation Army

The funds raised during the kettle campaign not only aid the Kokomo Salvation Army’s own food bank, but also benefit other food pantries in Kokomo and surrounding cities. Each Monday a truck picks up six pallets of fresh produce and frozen food from Aldi, Meijer and Sam’s Club. Sam’s occasionally donates meat. All the goods are then dispersed to food pantries. 

On Wednesdays, the truck heads out again to pick up five pallets for the Kokomo Salvation Army food pantry. Volunteers unload the truck and ready the space for visitors who come each Thursday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to noon, and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. While at the pantry, clients choose from the fresh produce, canned food and frozen items offered.

If people find themselves in need of food bank services or emergency financial relief, they should call the Kokomo Salvation Army office. The staff will lend a listening ear and assist callers with the application process by setting an appointment and identifying the required documents for applicants.

Volunteers are always welcome. Workers are needed for the food bank before, during and after each session, to unload, set up and clean up. An application must be filled out and a background check completed.

“We are so grateful to Aldi, Meijer and Sam’s Club,” Gates says. “They are helping to provide those who don’t get enough to eat with food and fresh produce. If someone needs assistance like this, or a small portion of financial help, they can call our office. A meeting will be set up to fill out paperwork and assess needs.”

Gates says that out of every $1 raised by the Salvation Army, 82 cents stay in Kokomo.

Kokomo Salvation Army

“With all the COVID and other negative stuff going on, this has been a tough year and Salvation Army knew it needed to help people rescue Christmas,” Gates says. “Salvation Army has minimum processing and administration fees. The money goes where it is needed most – right back to the community. We are here to help with our food bank, a small amount of financial assistance, or to listen and point people in the right direction to get the help they need.”

The Kokomo Salvation Army is located at 1105 South Waugh Street. For more info, call 765-456-3846. To make a monetary donation, visit donate.SalvationArmyIndiana.org/KokomoKettles. To sign up as an in-person or virtual kettle ringer, visit RegisterToRing.com.

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