Salvation Army urgently needs bell ringers in Antioch

Salvation Army bell ringersBy John Crowder

The Antioch Corps of the Salvation Army has an urgent need for volunteers to participate as Bell Ringers for their annual Red Kettle Campaign.

Lieutenant Connie Hall, Commander of the Antioch Corps, explained the need at the weekly meeting of the Kiwanis Club of the Delta-Antioch at their weekly, 7:00 a.m. meeting at Denny’s Restaurant on Tuesday, December 9. “People are very generous,” she said, “but we are experiencing an acute shortage of volunteer Bell Ringers.” With only two weeks to go for the campaign, she said, “without more volunteers to man the red kettles, we’ll be several thousand dollars behind on this important fund-raiser. That would mean having to cut programs, something I never want to say.”

Following the meeting, Hall provided Herald staff with a tour of the Salvation Army facility, located at 620 East Tregallas Road, and spoke about the Red Kettle Campaign and the work that the Salvation Army does for the local community.

Hall said that the vast majority of the Salvation Army’s support is derived from donor contributions received in the local community. They look to local volunteers, who work two-hour shifts manning the kettles in front of local stores that have allowed them to set up the donation kettles beside the store entrances. Hall said that, with a 100% volunteer campaign, the group could raise as much as $100,000 in contributions over a Christmas season, with $0.86 of every dollar going “directly to support the Salvation Army’s various community programs throughout the year.”

Bell ringerDuring the tour, Hall led us through the rooms where the myriad of community support programs are administered. They included a food storage area for their food bank, meeting areas for support groups, and a small classroom providing after-school care for local school children. She said they also funded summer camp opportunities for children, PG&E assistance for those encountering a financial emergency, and programs designed to help members of the community find employment. “We’re not just giving a handout, we’re giving a hand up,” she said.

John Sullivan, Immediate Past President of the Delta-Antioch Kiwanis, was one of several of the members of the local service organization who volunteered to help with the Salvation Army campaign. At 10:00 a.m. on the same day Hall spoke, he was out in front of Hobby Lobby, standing beside a red kettle and ringing the bell that so many recognize at this time of year. During his two hour shift, about half of those leaving the store made donations. Many young children placed donations in the kettle as their mothers’ looked on, approvingly. Each was greeted with a heartfelt, “Thank you, Merry Christmas,” by Sullivan, and most responded by thanking him for his work.

Asked about his volunteer effort, Sullivan said, “I’m retired, and my whole purpose now is to give back to the community. I think it’s kind of fun to ring the bell, and see people, and to see their generosity.”

People interested in volunteering should call Salvation Army Lieutenant Purnell Hall, Connie’s husband, at 925-778-0808, extension 12. Information about the Salvation Army can be found on the web at

Salvation Army kettleThe Red Kettles and Bell Ringers began in the Bay Area almost 125 years ago

The red kettle has been an American icon for nearly 125 years. From Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, the ubiquitous buckets can be found outside thousands of storefronts in small towns and big cities across the country. They can even be found on your TV, appearing in dozens of movies.

Red kettles raise millions for Salvation Army programs that provide food, shelter, rehabilitation, disaster relief, and much more for people and families in crisis. Last Christmas season, nationwide, kettles raised almost $136 million.

Indeed, red kettles are a Christmas force. But have you ever wondered who started the red kettle tradition, where, and why?

Wonder no more. Below is a short history of the Salvation Army red kettle, one of the most timeless and successful Christmas fundraising tools of all time.


In December of 1891, Captain Joseph McFee of The Salvation Army in San Francisco, Calif., was stumped. He wanted to provide a Christmas dinner for 1,000 poor people, but had no way to pay for it.

Then, an idea. He thought back to when he was as a sailor in Liverpool, England, where on the docks of the city’s waterfront he remembered seeing a large pot into which charitable donations could be thrown.

The next day, McFee secured permission to place a brass urn at the Oakland ferry landing. Beside the pot, he placed a sign that read, “Keep the Pot Boiling.” Soon, he had all the money he needed to fund the Christmas dinner.

Two years later, McFee’s fundraising idea had expanded to 30 kettle locations on the West Coast. He’d grown the program with help from two young Salvation Army officers named William A. McIntyre and N.J. Lewis.

Soon after Christmas 1895, McIntyre and Lewis were transferred to the East Coast. They took with them the idea of a Christmas kettle.

Kettle explosion

McIntyre was stationed in Boston. During the 1897 Christmas season, he, his wife and sister set up three kettles in the heart of the city. Their effort, combined with others on the West Coast and elsewhere, resulted in 150,000 Christmas dinners for the poor, nationwide.

Red kettles spread to the Big Apple, where the New York World newspaper hailed them as “the newest and most novel device for collecting money.” The newspaper also observed, “There is a man in charge to see that contributions are not stolen.”

In 1901, kettle donations in New York City funded a massive sit-down Christmas dinner at Madison Square Garden. The meal became a tradition for many years.

The rest, as they say, is history. Captain McFee’s idea launched a tradition that has spread not only throughout the United States, but across the world. Although red kettles are not found in all of the 126 countries The Salvation Army serves in, they can still be found in such distant lands as Korea, Japan, Chile, and many European countries.

Join the movement

You can be part of the red kettle tradition by signing up to bell ring.

Thousands of hours of ringing are available at hundreds of kettle locations across the country. Bell ringers raise an average of $30 per hour. In just two hours of ringing, you’ll raise enough money to provide a week’s worth of groceries for a family of four.

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