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Golden start to kettle season

It’s one thing for The Salvation Army in Harrisburg, Pa., to receive a donation that will benefit members of their community who are in need. It’s another thing for that donation to be pure gold.

The corps kicked off this crucial Red Kettle fundraising season by receiving one troy ounce of solid gold, which was dropped right into the kettle outside Karns Foods, a family-owned grocer located on Allentown Boulevard. The store is a long-time supporter of The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign.

One troy ounce is valued at approximately $1,700.

“It gives us sort of a psychological boost,” said Kathy Anderson-Martin, director of resource development for The Salvation Army Harrisburg Capital City Region. “Someone could write a $1,700 check, which we absolutely need and would appreciate, but the gold is just kind of cool. It’s different. It’s fun and unexpected.”

The anonymous donation couldn’t be timelier. It comes during The Salvation Army’s most critical Red Kettle Fundraising season. Due to the pandemic this year, Red Kettle donations from retail foot traffic have decreased 46 percent across The Salvation Army’s Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Division, compared to this time last year. Downtowns have fewer people walking around, and people are carrying less cash and fewer coins and are resorting to online shopping.

On top of that, many store owners have decided not to host kettles this year, and fewer people have volunteered to stand by them and ring the bell.


A most challenging year

“This season is extremely challenging because we probably have about half the kettle locations,” said Anderson-Martin. “And half of the kettles we have are not even going out each day because we don’t have people to staff them, for a variety of reasons.”

Yet, demand for services from The Salvation Army is soaring due to the economic impact of the pandemic. So, donations like the gold nugget will go a long way in helping people in need in the Harrisburg area.

Donations to The Salvation Army support multiple needs such as food distribution, employment assistance, youth programs, and gifts under the tree for disadvantaged children, which falls in line with The Salvation Army’s “Rescue Christmas” campaign.

Though unique, this wouldn’t be the first time The Salvation Army in Harrisburg has received a quirky donation. In fact, during the past ten years, the local Army has received quite the mix of gifts. One year, someone donated a wedding band with an accompanying note that read, “I hope this brings you more luck than it did me.”

A few years ago, Anderson-Martin recalled, the Army received a dental partial that contained gold fillings.

“We sold the gold out of those teeth for $170,” she said. “I remember it clearly, because I don’t think it can get any odder than that.”

Rare happenstances such as these result in lasting, meaningful relationships, particularly for The Salvation Army in Harrisburg. Gold and other similar donations go to Mountz Jewelers, who then return the full market value at no cost. The jewelers also sponsor local Army events year-round, in addition to providing plentiful in-kind contributions.

Salvation Army leaders in Harrisburg recognize the importance of giving back and call on the community members to support Mountz Jewelers and other local businesses. In a recent e-newsletter, Anderson-Martin wrote, “Small, local businesses like Mountz and many others are the heartbeat of our communities. Support them. They need us.”

by Mylin Batipps, Jr.



The Salvation Army in Harrisburg, like many corps across the territory, is seeing an increase in demand with diminished resources this Christmas. Click here to donate.