DALTON, Ga. — Imagine a small child coming to drop a shiny coin in the red kettle or a child emptying his pockets in order to put change in the kettle.
"Those are the kind of moments you live for," said Capt. Douglas McClure, corps officer with the Salvation Army Dalton. "All that money counts and makes a difference in somebody's life."
The Salvation Army Dalton's annual Red Kettle Campaign kicked off Wednesday afternoon at the organization's headquarters off Thornton Avenue with a goal of raising $115,000, about $7,000 more than last year. Beginning Monday, shoppers in Whitfield, Murray and Gordon counties will see the familiar red kettles accompanied by bell-ringers outside of retail and grocery stores.
Bill Bowen, a Salvation Army board member, said the organization is "desperately seeking volunteers."
"We're looking for individuals, organizations, civic and church groups to help ring the bell on a volunteer basis," he said.
Bell-ringers will be at Big Lots, Food City, Hobby Lobby, Wal-Mart and select Walgreens in the three-county area each day except on Sundays and Thanksgiving until Monday, Dec. 24. To volunteer, call Kara Sumner at (706) 278-3966.
The Red Kettle Campaign started as a modest fundraiser by Salvation Army Capt. Joseph McFee in San Francisco in 1891 and has grown to raise millions of dollars every year. Red Kettle drives are held in Chile, China, Japan and many European countries, the organization's website states.
McClure said it's the organization's largest fundraiser and has been in Dalton for the past 69 years.
"The Salvation Army doesn't ask for money every month," he said. "We do this campaign and our telethon in April. We've been doing it so long it's ingrained in who we are."
McClure said it's important to get people involved.
"The money raised here stays here," he said. "We’re not sending it away and it's not just helping for Christmas."
McClure said extra money helps children participate in music and art programs at the Salvation Army on Wednesday nights. It also funds the organization's summer program and keeps people's utilities on.
"Anything over and above Christmas goes to help people all year round," he said.
McClure said volunteers are the "life of what we do."
"Studies have shown that volunteers will bring in twice as much in donations," he said.
McClure said people are most likely to donate if they see a friend or familiar face ringing the bell.
"When you have groups volunteering people will not walk by without putting money in the kettle," he said.
McClure said some of his best memories as a child are standing with his family at a kettle stand, a tradition he continues.
"My wife Storm and our four boys always volunteer as bell-ringers," he said. "Even though I’m in charge of the program, my family knows how important it is to give back."
McClure said the red kettle is an "iconic part of Christmas."
"If you watch movies, you will see a kettle stand," he said. "For some people the ringing of the bell is a symbol of Christmas starting."