The sounds of small brass bells are resounding throughout the Augusta area as the Salvation Army’s iconic red kettles appear at area stores today.
The annual Red Kettle campaign kicked off with a goal of raising $250,000 from pocket change. The kickoff at Kroger at 2801 Washington Road pitted booster clubs and alumni chapters from several local and Southeast universities against one another in a team competition to collect the most money at the end of Wednesday.
“A little loose change can make a difference and can go a long way and change a life,” said Salvation Army of Augusta Capt. Tony Perez.
Perez joined the competition Wednesday morning, ringing a bell for his favorite football team, the University of Alabama.
Last year, the campaign raised $216,000, Perez said. Donations support holiday programs and year-round services, including a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter, alcohol and drug rehabilitation, and a job skills program.
“What I already know about people and what I’ve seen with this community is that when there is a need, they rise up to the challenge and help the Salvation Army make a difference,” Perez said.
Today through Christmas Eve, kettles will be stationed at retail and grocery stores around the Augusta area, including Walmart.
Even more kettles appear the day after Thanksgiving, totaling about 40 for the final weeks.
Bell ringers are needed to staff the kettles eight hours a day, six days a week. Church groups, civic organizations, families and individuals can volunteer for shifts. Volunteers are still needed to cover between 300 and 400 hours, said Katie Atkinson, the Salvation Army of Augusta’s volunteer coordinator.
“In a city this size, it’s very reachable but we need people to step up,” she said.