Stir the pot

Ellie Smith, Staff Writer

Walking down the streets of Chicago, the air is cold and Michigan Avenue is swarmed with people shopping for the holidays. On one of the street corners, a man in a Santa suit is ringing a familiar bell with a familiar sound. The sights and sounds take me back weeks to when I rang bells for the Salvation Army. It was here when I truly recognized that the Red Kettle Campaign was an international effort to create better communities in many nooks of our world.

Many don’t know that the Salvation Army originally was started in London by the Booth family in 1865. The names that brought Salvation to the states include Eliza Shirley and Samuel Brengle. However, it wasn’t until 1891 that the Red Kettle Campaign began. A man by the name of Joseph McFee wanted to provide a meal for 1,000 poor people in San Francisco. With a crowd that large, expenses were tight and the organization needed a way to pay for the outreach. McFee decided to take charge. He could remember back in England that someone once took a pot and had others drop donations into it. Thus, the Kettle Campaign was born. McFee secured a location at Oakland Ferry Landing and put out his pot. It even featured the tagline, “Keep the pot boiling.” The next year there would be 30 kettle locations on the West Coast. By 1895, two men by the names of McIntyre and  Lewis helped McFee took the initiative to take the kettle out to the East Coast. By 1897, Salvation Army Kettles helped provide 150,000 meals on the East and West Coast combined. People took to the idea very rapidly, and New York World newspaper even said that this was “the newest and most novel device for collecting money.” New York donors raised enough money to rent Madison Square Garden and have a sit down dinner for families and individuals in need for multiple years.

Today, you can still see the red buckets in front of shops and on street corners as you do your Christmas shopping. But they are also on street corners of Korea, Chile, Japan, and many European countries this holiday season. ‘Tis the season, but ‘tis also the season to give. I know that ringing bells has always been a tradition in my life so that others can create traditions of their own as well. Sign up to ring for the Salvation Army, keep the pot boiling, and create traditions of your own.