For the first time, church youth in Augusta can compete at red kettles across the city to claim the title of Battle of the Bells Youth Group Champion.
It's a new program launched by the Salvation Army of Augusta to increase volunteerism among youth. Church youth groups sign up to man the kettles for a day; the group that raises the most money wins.
It's friendly competition with the bonus of fundraising for the social programs and services of the Salvation Army, said Anthony Esposito, the new public relations coordinator for The Salvation Army of Augusta.
The organization set aside Saturday, Dec. 11, for youths to ring bells for 10 hours -- from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. -- at one of 30 kettles across the city.
The kettles have been a Salvation Army tradition since 1891. The money funds programs including food pantries, shelters and job training throughout the year. Last year, $219,000 was raised in local red kettles.
Youth groups that want to volunteer should appoint an adult coordinator who can oversee the project, Esposito said.
The group should schedule volunteers to fill the day's time slots. Each person can be signed up to man the kettle and ring the bell for as little or as much time as they'd like, as long as the kettle is manned at all times.
Esposito says the Salvation Army encourages singing, cheering, instruments and posters -- anything to help spread the spirit of the season.
Volunteers, he said, raise more money than the handful of paid staffers the Salvation Army employs at the kettles.
"They bring in 2 1/2 times as much," Esposito said. "We have to pay people to staff locations sometimes because you can't get enough volunteers. We have 30 different sites, eight to 10 hours a day, six days a week, for a month and a half. For every volunteer we have, that's money we can now put toward services."