Crystal Stevens was practically bouncing up and down with excitement as a small band played “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and passersby left their buggies of groceries long enough to drop a dollar or a handful of coins into her red bucket.
“I’ve been waiting all year for this,” said the Chatsworth resident. “If it wasn’t for (The Salvation Army), I would be on the street, probably.”
Stevens is one of dozens of people who will stand outside local stores this year, ringing a bell and wearing a red apron to encourage people to raise money for The Salvation Army. As a single mother who has needed financial help, she’s also benefited from the Christian-based ministry’s services.
A pair of Chick-fil-A cows and the organization’s brass band helped kick off the red kettle campaign Friday at the West Walnut Kroger.
The Salvation Army’s goal this year is to raise $100,000 for Whitfield and Murray counties, said Maj. Art Fultz, up from $91,000 last year. The money will go toward helping families at Christmas as well as charity programs throughout 2013 in which the organization assists people with rent, utilities and other necessities.
Volunteers and part-time paid staff will be at area Kohl’s, Kmart, Kroger and Walmart locations through Dec. 24 as well as at Big Lots and the Green Spot, organizers said. A few of the locations won’t have bell-ringers until later this month. Most locations will be staffed from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day except Sunday.
Cellphone users can text “give” to 80888 to initiate a $10 donation that will go to the local organization, event coordinator Pat Thompson said. There are also plans to have a device at the Walnut Avenue Kroger to allow donors to pay by credit or debit card. The organization’s Facebook page can be found by searching for “The Salvation Army-Dalton, Ga.”
Board member Bill Bowen said anyone can volunteer to ring one of the bells, but large groups of people — such as those from civic organizations or churches — are especially helpful. When volunteers staff the kettles, all of the money collected goes into the ministry instead of to paid staff, he said. Training is available for anyone who needs it.
“It’s really fun to do this,” Bowen said.
Jody McClurg is among a group of people from Dalton First United Methodist Church who coordinates for the church to staff the Walnut Avenue Kroger for almost all of December. She said the church’s members involve their Girl Scout troops, classes, family and friends in the project.
“It’s easy to do, and the kids have fun,” she said.
For information on volunteering, donating or sponsoring a child from the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree, call (706) 278-3966.