The sidewalk outside of the Augusta Exchange Hobby Lobby resembled a college game day tailgating party on Friday afternoon.
Groups from Augusta University, University of Georgia, Paine College, Georgia Southern and the Salvation Army of Augusta rallied as shoppers entered the craft store, enticing them to donate money to their teams’ Red Kettles — the iconic symbol of the Christmas season for the Salvation Army.
The Red Kettle Kickoff marks the beginning of monetary collections for the non-profit, as well as the first opportunity to sponsor a child from the Angel Tree. This year, more than 700 children are in need of Christmas gifts through the Salvation Army. Money raised during the kettle campaign provides funding for the Salvation Army’s programs throughout the year. Those programs include providing food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, assistance for the disabled, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing and shelter to the homeless and opportunities for underprivileged children.
“You’ve got to help your community. And this year with all of the hurricanes and all of the tragedies, the Salvation Army needs our help now more than ever,” said Rachel Rhodes-Dyar, a Georgia Southern team member .
While all the teams were competing to take home top honors as the lead fund raiser, the rivalry remained friendly considering the common goal.
“It all goes into one pot for the betterment of the CSRA,” said Ed Lake, past president of the Augusta Chapter of the UGA Alumni Association, as he showed off the trophy that hailed his team as champions from 2010 to 2015. Augusta University won the competition in 2016.
Event donations have reached $20,000 in previous years according to Salvation Army Capt. Philip Canning. The Salvation Army said 82 cents of every dollar it spends during the year is used to support services throughout the country.