“It’s one of the biggest needs we have all year for volunteers,” said Katie Atkinson, the Salvation Army of Augusta’s volunteer coordinator. “If you do the math, you realize we need someone out there ringing bells eight hours a day, six days a week, at 25 locations through Christmas Eve.”
The dedication of volunteer bell ringers pays off, Atkinson said. During the 2010 holiday season, The Salvation Army of Augusta raised more than $200,000 through the Red Kettle Campaign. This year, the goal is $250,000.
Though the campaign runs just six weeks, through Dec. 24, the money raised supports year-round services, including a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter and a job skills program.
The Kettle Campaign in Augusta kicks off Thursday with an event for college football fans at the Kroger at 2801 Washington Road. From noon to 8 p.m., booster clubs and alumni chapters from Georgia, South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern and Clemson will ring bells in support of their team. The team with the most money at the end of the day wins the Kettle Cup.
Across the river, The Salvation Army of Aiken kicks off its campaign with a cook-off Nov. 19.
From 2 to 6 p.m. on Newberry Street, local celebrities and business owners, including Solicitor General Strom Thurmond Jr., will appear as featured chefs. Each will have a red kettle.
“If you like that person’s food the best, that’s where you put your money,” Capt. Angela Repass said. “This is something completely different for us. We’re looking for great turnout.”
Admission is $5 per family, or free with the donation of an item of new children’s clothing, socks, gloves, hat or underwear.
The campaign in Aiken, which runs from Nov. 18 to Dec. 24, aims to raise $87,000 with kettles at 12 locations.
The kick-off event, Repass said, will also have information on the Salvation Army’s services and ways to get involved.
“Everyone sees the kettles and knows they do some good,” she said. “We’d like to let them know exactly what that means.”
Bell ringers usually work a four-hour shift between noon and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday. Kettles can be adopted by individuals, churches, schools or other groups for a single shift, an entire day or the whole season.
“The best bell ringers are anybody who has a heart to serve and wants to make an impact in their community,” Atkinson said. “There are 5-year-olds out there with their parents, and senior citizens who have been supporting us for years. Anybody can do it. Anybody can make a difference.”