TERRE HAUTE —
For 125 years, Terre Haute residents have heard volunteers ringing Salvation Army bells next to red kettles to collect donations for the needy.
This year will be no different, as red kettles are set up at 19 locations around the city, including Baesler’s Market, Big Lots, Hobby Lobby, JC Penney, K-Mart, Kroger, Macy’s, Open Door Christian Book Store, Rural King, Sam’s Club, Sears, Walmart and Walgreens.
Wednesday at Honey Creek Mall, local Salvation Army leaders and volunteers kicked off the red kettle campaign with a brass ensemble playing music and volunteers giving testimonials.
“The fun part is when your friends come and you can coerce them into giving,” laughed Sister Dorothy Rasche, who has rung a bell for five years.
“It’s really gratifying to see the people from all walks of life, no matter who they are, as soon as they see it …” she said, motioning to the kettle and gesturing a donation dropped into the bucket.
Three-year-old Rayme Althoff shyly went up to the bucket and dropped a handful of coins onto the red kettle top. She quickly scooted back to mother Kirsten’s side.
A veteran bell ringer, Kirsten Althoff said her family plans to volunteer for a bell ringing shift this year.
“I know they need help, and we’ll do anything we can do to help the Salvation Army. It’s a great faith-based organization,” she said.
The fundraising drive has a goal of $180,000 this year, and will serve more than 1,500 families in the Terre Haute community.
The money supports Salvation Army work throughout the year, including projects such as Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots, Tribune-Star Christmas Basket Fund, Exchange Club Bikes for Tikes, Kids Christmas with Police, and Adopt a Family.
“The Salvation Army in Terre Haute touched more than 5,000 lives last year,” said Capt. Cindy Hoag. “We couldn’t do it without all the volunteers and donations that come in.”
Capt. Gordon Hoag said the red kettles have become an expected part of the holidays for many people.
“I’ve heard people say it just wouldn’t be Christmas without hearing those bells when we go in and out of stores,” he said.
Dave Rogers, chairman of the local Salvation Army board, agrees. He has volunteered as a bell ringer for longer than the 22 years he has served on the board.
“It’s a lot more fun than people think,” he said. “You get to greet and meet a lot of people. It’s a good project for a good cause.”
Most importantly for the public to know, he said, is that the money goes directly to people most in need.
“We are selective, and people are prescreened,” he said, “so people can be assured that what they give goes to people in need.”
An excellent example of that need came to the ceremony in the form of World War II veteran Carl Southard of Martinsville, Ill.
“In 1944, we were crossing the equator and the International Date Line on the same day,” Southard recalled, “and on Christmas day, the only Christmas [gift] I got that year was from the Salvation Army.”
He recalled getting a bar of soap, stationery and a pencil, and a deck of playing cards.
He also recalled how important the Salvation Army was to military members during his service years. While waiting in San Francisco prior to his departure for submarine service in the Navy, Southard said, a Salvation Army volunteer walked into a bar full of servicemen. She carried a tambourine in which she was accepting donations.
A smart-aleck Marine reached out and whacked the tambourine, sending money flying everywhere, Southard said, and that set off a fight with the Marine getting tossed out of the bar. However, the Salvation Army volunteer left the bar with her tambourine overflowing with donations because of the generosity of the servicemen.
Gordon Hoag said the coins and bills collected in the red kettles adds up quickly.
“If every person in Terre Haute gave just $3, we’d be able to make our goal,” he said.
Anyone wanting to volunteer as a bell ringer can contact the Terre Haute corps by calling 812-232-4081 or emailing Gordon_Hoag@usc.salvationarmy.org.
Online red kettles can also be set up to receive donations by going to www.saterrehaute.org.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter@TribStarLisa.