Monday, December 19, 2011

Random Acts of Holiday Kindness - Red Kettles and Handbells

As a retired teacher I have had the opportunity to participate in many charitable events.  As adviser of the school National Junior Honor Society we participated in the News-Herald Clothe-a-Child campaign, USO activities, Adopt a Soldier Campaigns,  Euclid Police Athletic League programs and many others.  One project I took part in was at the urging of my colleague.  We enlisted some students and stood outside a local Euclid supermarket ringing a bell and encouraging random acts of kindness as we sought donations for our 'Red Kettle'.  Each holiday season and each shopping trip that familiar sound of bells ringing and sighting of a kettle brings back fond memories.  It also lightens my pockets as I gladly donate my change to the cause.

The Salvation Army got its start in 1865 in East London.  A one time Methodist minister, William Booth and his wife Catherine founded a mission for the poor and undesirables of the era.  Originally known as the East London Christian Mission, William sought donations from the 'poor' while his wife pleaded with the rich to assist in their cause.  A family conversation in 1878 resulted in a name change.  The Salvation Army was born.  Alongwith this name change, came uniforms, colors(flag), and a quasi- military organizational structure. The familiar Salvation Army crest first seen in 1878 became known world-wide during the Boer War (1901) and WWI.   By 1880, the army had expanded into Australia, Ireland, and the United States.  A hurricane (1900) and San Francisco earthquake(1906) became signature events for the army's charitable causes.  Today the Salvation Army serves 124 countries and is known in 175 languages.  A 1994 study named them the fourth-most popular charity in the world.  In 2011 it was reported that the 'Army' was the world's largest social aid agency.  Their 'Thift' Shops are known as "Sally's" in the U.S.  Canada knows them as "Sally Ann's" and in Australia nearly 93% of the population refers to them as "op shops".

The Red Kettle -  The iconic kettle has an interesting backstory.  It first appeared in 1891 in San Francisco.  Joseph McFee, a Salvation Army volunteer and former naval officer recalled an event from his past.  Remembering a 'Simpson's Pot' he saw in Liverpool, England, Mc Fee asked the local authorities if he could use a crab pot in public to solicit donations for the army's charitable causes.  The use of the hand bell followed almost immediately.

I do not remember how much we collected in December 2003.  I do remember that when both nights ended, our kettles were nearly full as a result of the random acts of kindness of others.  Less than a week remains until Christmas Day.  In the hustle and bustle of these remaining days, while you are out and about, take a moment to listen for the bells and find the kettle.  Your few pieces of change will make a difference in the ongoing history of the Salvation Army.

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