Amidst Black Friday shoppers, Salvation Army of Loudon County volunteers kicked off the annual Red Kettle Campaign, standing outside Walmart and ringing bells in hopes of getting donations.
Passersby will be met with red buckets and bells at Walmart’s two entrances 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday-Saturday until Christmas.
The annual campaign is the local nonprofit’s largest fundraising avenue, Karisa Bitner, chairwoman of the local service unit, said.
“It’s the time of year that we make the most money throughout the year to be able to help people in their emergency situations at our office during the week,” Bitner said. “The majority of the money goes to help folks in the community that come to us. Our office is open once a week for only a couple of hours to help people in emergency situations with basic necessities, like food, utilities. We give people vouchers to be able to go get some clothes at some other local organizations that offer that, and we sit down with clients and try to help them the best that we can with some money that we get through the community. It all stays in our county, in Loudon County.”
Many members volunteer their time to brave cold temperatures, rain or shine, to accept donations. Members of other local organizations, like various Rotary clubs, Kiwanis clubs and Boy Scout troops, join the Salvation Army’s cause and volunteer, Bitner said.
On Friday, volunteers Anna St. Pierre and Doris Davis suited up with aprons and bells for their first time volunteering for the organization. St. Pierre and Davis regularly work with the Loudon County Senior Center, and when the senior center asked the duo to help in the campaign, they felt pulled to do so.
“I had time on my hands, and then I almost feel like I needed to do something,” Davis said.
St. Pierre believes dedicating her time for an organization that benefits others helps her feel part of the cause.
“This was a good opportunity to get out and do something good,” she said. “It’s in all kinds of weather that people get out here. It’s important because (the Salvation Army) does good services for people. It makes you feel good to be a part of it.”
Other volunteers, like Larry Hawk, 90, are experienced in ringing the bells for the campaign.
“I volunteer each year, every year.” he said. “It’s a good cause. It really is.”
Though the local service unit doesn’t have a designated goal for fundraising, Bitner believes any donation placed in the familiar red kettle will boost funds for those in need.
“I think this time of year when we’re dealing with the holidays and people want to be able to give, and sometimes people don’t really know how to give, and to be able to see the red kettles that they are so familiar with year after year in front of the doors at Walmart, it’s an opportunity for them to give without really wondering where they need to go to do that,” Bitner said. “Salvation Army is recognized, and they know that we’re going to utilize the money in the best way possible in the community, for their community.”