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Red Kettle campaign begins

Jason Collier, regional music director for the Northern Shenandoah Valley Salvation Army, sings during the organization's campaign kick-off at the Royal Plaza Shopping Center in Front Royal on Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Members of the Randolph Macon Academy Choir sing a Christmas carol during the Salvation Army Kettle Kick-Off program Wednesday morning outside Royal Plaza Shopping Center in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

Front Royal Mayor Tim Darr makes a deposit into the Salvation Army's red kettle to kick off the organization's campaign in Front Royal on Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

After dropping a dollar in the red kettle, Caitlin Nixon, 5, of Winchester is given the chance to ring the bell at Carol Ann Adams's station outside the Apple Blossom Mall on Tuesday afternoon. The campaign kicked off on Monday, and will run through Christmas Eve. Kim Walter/Daily

Salvation Army chapters in area launch annual funding drives

By Kim Walter

With the holiday season fast approaching, most area chapters of the Salvation Army have begun the 2012 Red Kettle Bell Ringing campaign, and goals have been set to meet the ever-growing community need.

In Winchester and Frederick County, the effort started Monday at just under 30 locations, including Walmarts, restaurants, banks and the Apple Blossom Mall. A goal of $160,000 for the chapter has been set, and the funds raised by the nonprofit organization will directly benefit families through the distribution of Christmas toys and food.

Lt. Danitza Porras, who has been with the Winchester Salvation Army for eight years, said the local organization has seen increased need.

"We see new people come to our doors on a daily basis, for shelter, food, clothing and financial assistance," she said. "It's not that people are choosing not to work, but for many their hours have been reduced and the current income just isn't enough to cover household expenses."

The kettle season lasts six weeks, ending on Christmas Eve. Ringing bells will be heard at various locations from Monday through Saturday and in 12-hour shifts. The Salvation Army employs 70 bell ringers, but Porras said volunteers are not only encouraged, but needed.

"We've still got spots that need to be covered," she said.

So far a little over 1,700 children up to the age of 13, and about 900 families are registered to receive Christmas assistance.

"This is a time of sharing and caring, but also just being aware of the need of others," Porras said. "And every year we can see that this community is very giving, but we still need all the help we can get."

When distribution takes place, Porras said that even on that day, anything left over will be given to people in need.

"At that point, we can't necessarily guarantee toys, but we can always get them food," she said.

Carol Ann Adams of Frederick County was out ringing her bell on Tuesday afternoon at the Apple Blossom Mall. This season is her sixth time participating, and she vows to continue being a part of it for as long as she can.

"Every year this makes me realize that I am too blessed to be stressed," she said. Over her years of involvement with the Salvation Army, Adams said she's heard many stories from those who have benefitted from the holiday efforts.

"Some folks will donate now and tell me that if it weren't for this program when they were kids, Christmas just wouldn't have been Christmas," she said. "And it really warms my heart when I hear from the soldiers who said that when they were overseas, it was the Salvation Army that was there in the forefront, providing all kinds of things. That's why I stand here. You can't buy that feeling of knowing that someone has not only been helped, but is also thankful for it."

Adams added that any amount helps when putting change or bills in the red buckets, though twice she's seen a $100 bill donated.

"Pennies, nickels, dimes ... it doesn't matter, it all counts," she said. "I don't know what happens once it's in the bucket, but it seems to multiply."

The Front Royal/Warren County chapter also held their kick off ceremony this week, though a few bell ringers have been out since Friday. Lt. Pradeep Ramaji said the campaign won't get into full swing until the day after Thanksgiving, though.

"We prefer volunteers, but we also look for paid ringers," he said. The buckets can be found in five locations around town, including Walmart, Kmart and Big Lots. This year's local goal has been set for $60,000.

"We've got about 360 people registered to benefit from the funds so far," Ramaji said. "But, we're still getting people calling and asking."

On the Thanksgiving and Christmas food end of the distribution, the chapter has received 120 applications, almost twice as many as last year.

"I hate that there our people without such essential things," he said. "But this is what the Salvation Army does. We meet the human need without discrimination. We see the hunger and need, not the religion or color."

In Shenandoah County, the bell ringers will be out the day after Thanksgiving and on Fridays and Saturdays through Christmas. A goal of $18,000 has been set, which is a little more than last year's goal, according to chapter treasurer Dick Cooley.

"We retain 90 percent of what is given through the kettles to help our county," he said. Buckets will be placed at Walmart and several Food Lions, and will be manned by volunteers only.

"I've been in this line of work for years," Cooley said of charities and fundraisers. "But I think this year will be tough ... the need is just greater."

To find out more about donating to or volunteering with the Salvation Army, call 662-4777 for Winchester/Frederick County, 635-4020 for Front Royal/Warren County, or 459-5192 for Shenandoah County.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com


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