The red kettles are back.
The Salvation Army of Greater Augusta kicked off its red kettle fundraising campaign Wednesday, with rings of the familiar hand bell letting everyone know the holiday season is close at hand.
Salvation Army advisory board co-chairman Ben Watts ceremoniously dropped a $13 memoriam into a kettle outside the Kroger on Washington Road as the organization’s band played Christmas carols.
“Thanksgiving is a week later (this year), and so we’re starting a little bit early because we need the bell-ringing funds,” said John Sebby, the director of development.
Alumni from the University of Alabama, the University of Georgia, Georgia Southern University and Clemson University competed to raise the most money and be declared the winner of the fourth annual kickoff.
“It’s just so much fun,” said Rachel Rhodes-Dyar. She started organizing Georgia Southern’s alumni nearly two months ago.
“I know somebody came in at the last minute (last year) and threw in a $5,000 check,” she said. “It was an unbelievable amount of money.”
Rhodes-Dyar said each school typically raises about $300 on kickoff day. The friendly rivalry makes the first day of fundraising fun, she said.
“Knowing that you’re doing something for the community, but also for the glory of your school,” she said.
Capt. Tony Perez said last year’s kickoff day brought in $9,200.
The goal for the whole campaign this year is $252,000.
“That will help us feed a lot of people. Help us give Christmas to a lot of people. Helps us to be able to provide a lot of shelter and nights’ stay to a lot of folks, so that’s what this is all about,” he said.
To make donating easier for shoppers who don’t carry cash, each kettle station will have a QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone. The user will be taken to a secure site to donate.
Twenty kettles will be stationed throughout the area until Thanksgiving. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there will be about 40.
Perez said the campaign is carrying out its mission to care for the needy in the Augusta area.
“The kettle program was all started to help feed the hungry and shelter the homeless,” he said.