Salvation Army red kettle bell ringers at the grocery store are a sure sign of the holidays and a season of giving.
Though, a diligent donor should wonder where they put those pennies. According to Ginifer Pack, captain at the Salvation Army Centralia, all “funds raised in Lewis County stay in Lewis County.”
Donations to the red kettles in person and online at centraliaredkettle.org are spent on the unique needs of the people the Salvation Army helps locally. That could mean paying for a windshield replacement for a low income family, sending kids to summer camps for a typically cost prohibitive learning experience, keeping the Centralia hygiene center running year-round or providing someone with a sleeping bag.
When the Salvation Army Centralia sets its goal every year, it rounds up from the total made if every person in the county gave one dollar. This year, it’s set at $79,000. Last year, they made about $65,000, which Pack said was a success.
“Every penny counts, every amount of change matters to us. It’s just an internal goal for us to say that it's a dollar per person in the county. But we know that there are people who can't even do a dollar, but we know that someone, maybe their neighbor, can do five,” Pack said.
The organization draws up contracts with the stores where red kettles are placed, allowing bell ringing to begin on the Monday following Thanksgiving. This year, red kettles are most likely to be found at the Walmart and the Centralia and Chehalis Safeway locations.
Because of that contract, the current season is two days shorter than most years. Between this and troubles staffing volunteers, meeting the $79,000 goal is shaping up to be a challenge.
But online donations, Pack said, may lower the barriers for some folks who are trying to get most of their shopping done from home this year, or for residents who don’t live near the stores with consistent volunteers.
There are also other ways to get involved, including volunteering, or through the Salvation Army’s toy drive for new, unwrapped toys. Right now, there are over 500 kids in the county scheduled to receive toys from this program, which will mostly take place over this Friday and Saturday.
Before boxes are collected throughout the day on Thursday, Dec. 16, there are a few other drop-off locations, including the Chehalis Starbucks, Home Depot and Hickory Farms in Chehalis. After Thursday, donations will still be collected in the box outside Walmart or delivered to the Salvation Army Centralia at 303 N. Gold St.
The largest chunk of children signed up for the toy drive currently are between the ages of 1 and 8, so donors are encouraged to select age appropriate toys for that group.
“We have the ability to serve in a unique and different way and in ways that make sense for families and individuals,” Pack said.
“And the toys have an impact. We often hear impact stories from families. … And what a blessing for our community to show up for families that have been impacted in all different capacities.”
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321 N. Pearl St. Centralia, WA 98531 360-736-3311