One of my oldest and most cherished memories involves a Salvation Army red kettle. I remember standing next to my father as he played his cornet in front of an oversized Christmas kettle at the King of Prussia Mall just outside of Norristown, Pa. While I did not fully understand what we were doing, I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with my dad. I remember a few years later playing my horn, along with my whole family, in front of a red kettle in Pittsburgh. And I remember as newlyweds standing alongside my wife in front of Macy’s department store on the streets of New York City, as we thanked those who put money into the kettle. In fact, my life is full of Salvation Army red kettle memories.
As I grew older, I began to realize the significance of these kettle memories. My family and I were continuing a tradition of volunteerism that dates to 1891 San Francisco. Captain Joseph McFee, a Salvation Army officer who was looking for a way to provide a Christmas meal to those in need, used an old soup kettle and ladle, along with a sign that read “Keep the Pot Boiling,” and raised the money necessary to feed the many struggling families on the wharf.
Over 130 years later, Captain McFee’s kettle is still going strong. Thanks to kettle volunteers, millions of dollars are raised annually to support men, women, and children not only during the holiday season, but throughout the year. Thanks to the Salvation Army red kettle and the volunteers who support them:
- Moms and dads receive food so their children will not go hungry. In fact, last year alone, The Salvation Army provided over 171 million meals.
- Men, women, and children sleep in a safe place, rather than on the street. Last year, The Salvation Army supplied almost 8 million nights of lodging.
- Young children find a safe place where they can grow and learn and be given their best chance for a successful life.
- People learn life skills. More importantly, they learn that they are loved.
- Lives are transformed.
Salvation Army red kettle volunteers are clearly making a difference in the lives of others. And when we volunteer, we often receive far more than we give. In doing for others, we are not only blessed with a wonderful sense of fulfillment and joy, but we also create beautiful memories.
This Christmas season, make some memories as you help those in need. Volunteer on a Salvation Army red kettle.