Red kettles are as synonymous with the holidays as candy canes and tinsel. The red kettles originated in 1891 when Salvation Army Capt. Joseph McFee worried about how to raise funds to feed San Francisco’s most destitute at Christmas. He remembered a symbol, from his youth in England, of a large pot into which passers-by would toss charitable donations. He placed the first pot at the foot of Market Street in San Francisco with a sign,”Keep The Pot Boiling,” and a trend was initiated that has reverberated around the world ever since.

Newburyport’s Salvation Army’s yearly budget is $373,000 and the Red Kettle campaign funds about 20 percent or about $75,000. At the 2012 Volunteer’s Recognition Dinner on April 25, bell ringers received acclaim as follows: The Top Spot Award went to those who stood at Market Basket and raised $22,000, the Student Award to the NHS Hockey Team for raising $7,000 and the Business Award to the Newburyport Five Cents Saving Bank for raising $19,000. A new group award was initiated: “The Fellowship of the Frozen” went to the Lions Club for their 48 hours of standing and ringing. As a “ringer,” I can vouch for the fact that this award could very well be awarded to all who stand out in the elements.

The 2012 program listed how our local Salvation Army is dedicated to People Helping People. “The SA in Newburyport provided over 800 toys and more than 200 articles of clothing to area children during Christmas; distributed 278 food baskets for both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner; provided nearly 51,000 meals to over 1,500 families through the Emergency Food Pantry; served more than 12,000 meals to individuals at the SA Cafe; Friendship Table and other after-school programs; sent 24 children to overnight summer camp; prevented dozens of families from being evicted or having their electricity shut off and so much more.” Thanks to you, the “pot is boiling” to the extent that tens of millions in the United States are assisted throughout the year and more than 6 million of those during the holiday season.

The ringing will commence Monday, Nov. 12, so sign up: students, teachers, housewives, retired business executives, ex-military, as well as all those who want to help and are looking for a place to start. Call Lt. Jeff Brunelle at 978-465-0883 and he will provide information on locations available for the hours you wish to serve. Share in the bounty of volunteer giving, your time, at a crucial time of the year for many recipients. It’s great exercise for the body and good for the soul!


Robert D. Campbell, an essayist who lives in Newburyport, believes that a sense of humor is essential.

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