The sight of a shiny red kettle near someone clanging a bell for the Salvation Army is almost as synonymous with the holiday shopping season as children waiting in line for a chance to sit on Santa’s lap.
This year dozens of local people will once again spend two-hour shifts Monday through Saturday standing outside 14 Hendersonville shopping locations between now and Christmas Eve collecting for the organization, including Albert Gooch who has braved the elements on behalf of the local Rotary Club each year since 1983.
“For me, it’s a way for my Christmas season to begin,” the 70-year-old management and fundraising consultant for area non profit agencies says of his annual obligation. “In my line of work I deeply believe in philanthropy, especially at Christmas, and the Salvation Army does good work. I consider it a privilege to be able to do it. It is a matter of service to the community, but I get a lot out of it too.”
Beseeching busy people for their dimes and dollars outside a shopping center may not be how everyone gets into the spirit of the holiday season, but Gooch says he rarely encounters any resistance.
“You see people in the parking lot and some will divert their eyes and walk on by once they hear the bell ringing, but most are friendly,” he says. “I’ve never had anyone be rude or unpleasant. The really nice thing is when you see children put their own money in or when they drop what their parents gave them into the kettle. That really warms my heart.”
The Red Kettle Campaign began in 1891 and is the Salvation Army’s main fundraising event, last year raising more than $118 million dollars across the country. In 2007 the local chapter raised $96,867, all of which was used to help Henderson County families.
“We try to stretch your dollars as far as possible so we can continue to help less fortunate families throughout the year by giving them assistance with their rent, mortgages, utilities, food, clothing, as well as other things such as prescription medications and other pressing needs,” explains Henderson County Salvation Army Volunteer Coordinator Cheryl Gudger-Thompson, adding that there is still time to volunteer for the Red Kettle Campaign. “Taking a shift with your family is a great tradition to start, a wonderful way to teach the small children to give and a special way to spend time with your older children during the holidays.”