The Salvation Army got its Red Kettle season started on Tuesday morning in Lawton under the cloud of a surging pandemic.
A small crowd was gathered outside of the westside Country Mart, 6734 Cache Road, to ring in the Red Kettle season. Behind the masked faces were smiles and laughs as Maj. David Robinson, the Commanding Officer of the Salvation Army of Lawton, addressed the changes that have been made to try and keep bell ringers safe this year.
“This has been a crazy, crazy year,” Robinson said. “T†he kettle brings us back to a little bit of normalcy for some people.”
Robinson acknowledged the challenges of asking bell ringers to volunteer not only their time, but their safety as well. In order to provide for their safety, every day, each bell ringer will be get their own PPE package. The packages contain gloves, a disposable apron, wipes and masks.
“We’re trying to keep our bell ringers as safe as possible. Normally during kettle season you don’t come into contact with a lot of people if you’re ringing the bell. You just have to be there close by,” Robinson said.
Robinson said that ringers will be taking measures to keep givers safe as well by keeping the kettle wiped off and maintaining social distance.
Red Kettle donations are a major part of the Salvation Army’s income for the year.
Monte Brown, who spoke at the kick-off, pointed out that this is not the first pandemic that the Red Kettle ringers have worked through, citing the 1911 Spanish Flu. The Red Kettle program was created in 1891 and it is possible that some bell ringers worked through the Spanish Flu under similar conditions.
“Throughout the years the donations have allowed the Salvation Army to give hope to those who need a warm place to sleep at night,” Brown said.
Brown said that this is another opportunity for citizens to respond to “possibly the greatest challenge of our lifetime.”
“We can rescue Christmas through every volunteer that rings the bell,” Brown said.
Unfortunately, volunteers are in short supply. As of Tuesday morning, only 11 people had volunteered to serve as bell ringers this year. Of those 11, Robinson said he suspects seven might show up.
“Usually by this time I have about 40 to 45 bell ringers already signed up,” Robinson said. “We need more bell ringers.”
This year, individuals, organizations or businesses that would like to volunteer as bell ringers can do so online. A quick visit to registertoring.com is all that is needed. It is a very simple process, according to Robinson.
The goal this year is to raise $110,000. Last year’s goal of $112,000 fell short by around $19,000. But Robinson is hopeful that, with new ways to give including Apple Pay and Google Pay at all red kettles, the goal can be met.
“Many people don’t carry cash anymore so those are very important things,” Robinson said.
There is the additional option to setup a virtual kettle at registertoring.com.
For more information about the Salvation Army or the Red Kettle program, please call 355-1802.