Christmas 2017Magazine Features

Lessons from the Kettles

For more than four decades, Roxie Brought has attended the Salvation Army’s York Citadel Corps in York, Pa. In 1995, she became the corps kettle coordinator. The 2017 kettle season will be her final one before she retires. The following are some of the lessons she learned along the way.

Remember that God chose you

Brought remembers feeling nervous when her corps officers asked her to organize the kettles. “I had a medical administrative background. Fundraising and preparing kettle workers to go out in the name of the Army was new to me,” says Brought. She admits this was not what she would have chosen for herself, but she remembered words from the book of John, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last …” (John 15:16).

“The volunteers that were coming from the streets and shelters were bedraggled, and not the best dressed or the cleanest,” says Brought. “Many of them had received help from the York Citadel Corps in the past; they said this was their way of giving back. They all had a heart for the mission of The Salvation Army.”

Everyone can help

When a local biker club came to the corps with a desire to help, Brought put them outside of a Salvation Army thrift store. When an employee asked why so many men on motorcycles were in the parking lot, Brought asked if they were creating any trouble.

“When the employee said they were not, I replied ‘Good, because they’re ready to ring bells,’” says Brought.

That day, the bikers, wearing long beards, dark shades, and leather jackets, raised significant money for the cause.

Rodney, another worker, is confined to a wheelchair. His physical limitation had kept him from being hired by other York businesses. The first time he stopped by the corps to ask if he could be used for the kettles, Brought said they had no way of transporting him. The corps van did not have the lifts needed to accommodate a wheelchair.

“That’s okay,” Rodney said. “Where am I going?”

Brought said, “When I talked to Rodney, got to know him, and realized what he was capable of, I thought, if I was him, I would want someone to give me a chance too.”

Brought assigned Rodney to ring the bell at a local mall. Bright and early, he took the bus by himself to his post—even on days when the weather was harsh. Those mornings, Brought would call him to say that it was okay to skip a day if he couldn’t make it.

“He would reply to me, ‘I’m on my way to the mall already. I’ll meet you there,’” says Brought.

“How folks like Rodney can be there, for 8–10 hours a day, in the name of God, inspires me.”

Get to know (and love) your kettle workers

To Brought, the men and women who have come for kettle season have become family. From the beginning, she came to know every person she hired and invested valuable time and effort into their lives.

Ishmael, one of Brought’s first kettle workers, was proof of her connection to the team.

“One January when kettle season was already over, Ishmael passed away unexpectedly,” says Brought. “When he died, his loved ones reached out to me directly. I had never met any of his family, but his sister said that he always talked to them about me.” The corps helped Ishmael’s family secure a gravesite and to arrange his funeral.

“Once you have Roxie Brought’s trust, you have an ally for life,” says Major Dennis E. Camuti, corps officer of York Citadel. “She has a pastoral spirit and will help lift you up in any way she can.”

The kindness will surprise you

“York has been very supportive of the work of the Army,” says Major Dennis Camuti. “They know us, and they all know Roxie Brought.”

During the Salvation Army’s kettle season in York, everyone, from the local TV station anchor to the Girl Scout troops, makes room in their busy schedules for the campaign. For example, employees at a nearby Volkswagen office came to the corps to help ring bells for two days. A manager of a local Harley–Davidson motorcycle dealership placed a kettle inside the store so any employees and customers could donate on the spot.

Sometimes, the donations aren’t what one would expect. People have given jewelry, rare coins, and envelopes stuffed with 100 dollar bills.

“One time, someone even gave us their gold teeth, wrapped in a tissue!” says Brought, laughing.

Turn fundraising into ministry

During her first years as coordinator, Brought noticed that some of the kettle workers lacked a personal connection with God.

“Even though they were going out and doing their best, faith was an important component that wasn’t always there,” says Brought.

She developed morning routines, which the workers did before they went to their posts. They set aside two hours every morning for devotionals, prayers, and coffee. It was a time to socialize, develop their personal faith, and talk about how the Lord was present in their lives.

“These mornings became something we all looked forward to,” says Brought.

This ministry focus had another positive effect on the team. They became more connected to their roles. They took an interest in analyzing how well each kettle worker was doing, and cheered each other on when they reached their monetary goals.

by Hugo Bravo