Growing up as a kid, the spotting of red kettles on street corners and hearing the sound of hypnotic bell ringing was as much a symbol of the arrival of the Christmas season as Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
And I always wanted to drop a few coins inside. And as the quarters and dimes slipped through the slot, an adult manning the kettle would always by recognizing me by saying, “Thank you and Merry Christmas.”
As a child, the praise of an adult and knowing you’ve done something good for others is a powerful reward.
Today, as an adult, I’m proud to now be the adult standing next to the red kettles, ringing he bell and thanking those who contribute.
The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Program is a remarkable program. While nearly everyone recognizes the kettles, few probably know of the humble story behind them.
In 1891, the number of poverty-stricken individuals and families in San Francisco troubled a captain of the local Salvation Army. His hope was to provide people with a free Christmas dinner, but funding the program was his challenge. Living near the docks reminded him of a charity pot in the town of Liverpool, England. The concept, named a “Simpson’s Pot,” encouraged workers and the public to toss a coin or two into the pots as they strolled by in order to help those in need.
The captain went out, found a pot and adapted the concept to helping the poor in San Francisco — and that year hungry families were fed by the generosity of those with open hearts and more fortunate financial circumstances.
The success of the program spread quickly. Within a few short years, the program was adopted in Boston with big success. Shortly afterward, the introduction of the drive to New York City resulted with a massive sit-down dinner in Madison Square Garden for thousands of those in need.
The Red Kettle Campaign, as it is now known, is celebrated and recognized around the world. In some communities, locals have even begun dropping a gold coin into a pot — a valuable contribution in both dollars and in bringing public attention to the campaign.
Today the Salvation Army’s program reaches helps over four-and-half million people during the holiday season.
When I was a small child, I learned from example by watching my parents and other adults that giving to charity was what loving adults do. My mother slipping me a few coins each year was her investment not only in those in need, but helping me understand the giving to others was the right thing to do as a responsible adult.
Today I am that adult standing next to the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle. And as my children grew up, they too, would take turns standing alongside me — learning the warm reward of helping others.
My hope is you, as well as those who recognize the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign, will help keep this beautiful tradition alive. May God bless you.