Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Play Bells: Salvation Army Kicks off Red Kettle Season; Jacksonville Fundraising Goal Is $400,000; All Proceeds Fund Programs in the Community

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Play Bells: Salvation Army Kicks off Red Kettle Season; Jacksonville Fundraising Goal Is $400,000; All Proceeds Fund Programs in the Community

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey

If Harold Pierce is wearing a red apron, ringing small handbells and singing, it must be Red Kettle time.

Pierce, 78, who has been ringing the Salvation Army holiday fundraising bells for 10 years, led the group-sing of "Jingle Bells" Thursday as the Northeast Florida area command kicked off its 2016 Red Kettle campaign.

He said he will continue to man the iconic Red Kettle stations, ringing the bell and singing for donors who drop money in the bucket, "as long as I can stand up." He does it for the needy children and families who receive food and gifts from the campaign.

"To realize you did something to help make that possible ... you can't beat that," Pierce said.

The Salvation Army is seeking hundreds of volunteers to work Red Kettle stations outside at least 70 stores in Jacksonville and in neighboring counties. In 2015 the region raised $768,307, said spokeswoman Kelly Belich.

Last year Jacksonville Red Kettles alone raised $378,897 and the goal for this year is $400,000, said area commander Rob Vincent.

"That annoying tingling you hear throughout the community is drawing attention to the needs of the community. It means somebody is being helped," he said. "The kettles are our hallmark."

Proceeds provide toys for children and food baskets for families for the holidays and fund year-round hunger relief and homelessness programs. The Salvation Army gives supplemental groceries to 250 households each week and 41,166 nights of shelter per year. The meal ministry serves meals to the homeless and working poor every night, totaling 160,744 meals per year, according to the nonprofit.

All Red Kettle proceeds stay in the community where they were received.

The campaign is a holiday-season "conduit" for people who want to help to reach people who need help, Vincent said. He said he has been a Salvation Army officer for 28 years so he has been to about 28 Red Kettle kickoffs. He said he looks forward to them and the giving spirit that surrounds them, he said.

"I love Christmas," he said.

Three Jacksonville Publix stores are the city's top three Red Kettle fundraisers, said Richard Lipsey, chairman of the Jacksonville command's Christmas committee. …

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