Mankato Salvation Army kicks off Red Kettle Campaign

Nov. 2—MANKATO — Warm weather and members of the Maverick Machine greeted attendees at the Mankato Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign kickoff event Wednesday as the organization looks to raise $525,000 this holiday season to run its programs.

While bell ringing doesn't officially start until Nov. 21, Capt. Andy Wheeler said they wanted to make people aware now.

"We wanted to get out early so that people would know there's time. It gives them the opportunity to volunteer, you know, sign up for our bell ringing on the website and just find other ways to connect with us this season," he said. "It's a big season. We have a huge effort in mind, because the community's needs have not gone down."

Once bell ringers are officially on the ground, the season will run through Christmas Eve.

"We don't ring on Sundays out of respect for worship, and we don't ring on Thanksgiving out of respect for families," Wheeler said.

He said they're always looking for bell ringers to get into the holiday spirit, adding there's still time for people to volunteer. The organization is also offering seasonal paid opportunities as well.

"The sky's the limit. The shifts we ask for from our volunteers are at least two hours, so any given day we could have 100 different volunteers. I don't have a cap on it."

Wheeler said there's rolling signup between now and the day before Christmas Eve, but if you want dibs on a spot, he recommends signing up soon.

Wheeler said a typical shift involves dressing for the weather.

"We've been really fortunate to have great store managers, a lot of which will let us inside, especially if the weather's really bad, but if you're at a spot that's outside, you want to just be dressed and ready for that."

He added the best bell ringers are there for the right reasons.

"Someone who has joy, who's willing to make eye contact, smile. Essentially, I want my ringers to brighten the course of somebody's day because they walked by them."

Last year the Salvation Army raised $474,000, Wheeler said.

All the money goes back into keeping the Salvation Army going.

"It keeps us operational all year long. Right now it's a huge support for our day shelter that we have not closed all year. It helps us operate our lunch program, the emergency social services that we provide. It helps keep our prices down at the thrift store, and it keeps all of us doing what we need to do to help this community," Wheeler said.

Jeff Lang, who serves on the advisory board at the Salvation Army, volunteers every year.

He said the campaign is critical to the organization.

"To get things kicked off and see a great group of people here today to get fired up and have momentum going into Christmas season is extremely important," he said.

Lang said, for him, volunteering is the perfect way to get into the spirit of the holidays.

"To be out ringing the bells and thinking about what that's all about, the spirit of giving."