About this time of year, you can hear bells ringing all over the city. Those bells are an auditory reminder of the call to help our fellow man. You'll hear them at the grocery store, the mall, and movie theatre. There will be a volunteer usually clad in a red apron, ringing the bell and standing next to a little red kettle. That little red kettle has become an iconic symbol of the Salvation Army.
In 1891, a Salvation Army captain in San Francisco resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner to the area's poor. But how would he pay for the food?
From his days as a sailor in Liverpool, England, the captain remembered a large pot, displayed on the Stage Landing, called "Simpson's Pot," where passerby would toss charitable donations. The captain presented his idea to city authorities and received permission to place a similar pot at the Oakland ferry landing at the foot of San Francisco's Market Place. In its conspicuous position, the pot drew the attention of people going to and from the ferryboats. Another urn, in the ferryboat waiting room, also attracted donations. Thus, Captain Joseph McFee launched a tradition that spread throughout the United States and then around the world.
By Christmas 1895, thirty Salvation Army corps in the West Coast area used the kettle. That year, The Sacramento Bee published a description of the Army's Christmas activities and mentioned the contributions. Two young Salvation Army officers, William A. McIntyre and N.J. Lewis, instrumental in the original use of the kettle, took the idea to the East Coast. In 1897, McIntyre prepared his Christmas plans for Boston around the kettle.
Other Army officers did not want to participate for fear of "making spectacles of themselves." Nevertheless, McIntyre, with his wife and sister, set up three kettles on Washington Street in the heart of the city. That year, the kettle effort in Boston and other locations nationwide resulted in 150,000 Christmas dinners for the needy.
In 1898, The New York World hailed The Salvation Army kettles as "the newest and most novel device for collecting money." The newspaper also observed, "There is a man in charge to see that contributions are not stolen."
In 1901, kettle contributions in New York City provided funds for the first mammoth sit-down dinner in Madison Square Garden, a custom that continued for many years. Today, families are often given grocery checks or food baskets so they can prepare dinners at home. The homeless poor are still invited to share holiday dinners and festivities at hundreds of Salvation Army centers.
Kettles now are used around the world, including Korea, Japan, Chile and Europe. Everywhere, public contributions to the kettles enable The Salvation Army to bring the spirit of Christmas to people who would otherwise be forgotten - the aged and lonely, ill, poor and disadvantaged, or inmates of jails and other institutions.
In the United States, The Salvation Army annually aids more than 6 million people at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Kettles have changed since that first utilitarian cauldron in San Francisco. Today, some kettles have such devices as a self-ringing bell, a booth with a system that broadcasts Christmas carols, even the capability for donors to use credit cards!
Whatever the innovation, though, the same message - "Sharing is Caring" - still supports this timeless, enduring program.
As I entered the grocery store today, I was reminded of the similarities between the missions of the Salvation Army and Netroots For The Troops. Both are a call to help our fellow man. From sending 130 packages and raising $13,000 in 2008 to sending over 300 packages and raising over $50,000 in 2009, NFTT has far exceeded anyone's expectations.
We have great aspirations for 2010, and we need your help. We hope send 600 packages this year, and have enough funds remaining to help soldiers and their families throughout the year. Can we do it? You bet we can! But only if you believe we can. The next time you hear the bell toll, be reminded that it also tolls for you to answer the call to help those in need.
Here’s how YOU can help:
- Please contact TexDem if you know someone who might be helpful in securing the corporate in-kind donations. To help you think of companies who could donate products, see below* for a list of potential items. Put your thinking caps on and let us hear from you. It takes time to get through the corporate processes so we need to hear from you ASAP!
- We are accepting cash from individuals and
begask that you DONATE HERE to contribute to this worthy cause. Your donation will enable us to purchase the things that we are unable to obtain through corporate donations, and will help to pay the costs of shipping them to our troops. This year your donations will be tax deductible, thanks to Netroots Nation and their partner Netroots Arts and Education Initiative, a California 501(c)3 corporation.
- Sign up for a diary! Don’t worry---we’ve made it easy for you. We’ve got a template set up, and all you need to do is add a small introduction telling us why you are donating, sharing a story of someone you know who has served or is serving, or any other thing you want to share that might help motivate others to donate.
- Do you know a service member who would like to receive a care package? Email a request to: email@example.com before June 30 2010.
Please include all of the following information. Unfortunately we will not be able to process any incomplete requests:
APO Address Line 1:
APO Address Line 2:
APO Address Zip:
- Write letters to be included in the packages! If you need some ideas, rbutters wrote an excellent diary with tips on how to write letters to troops and why it’s so important to them.
- Help us assemble the packages in Las Vegas. It's fun! More information will be forthcoming for those of you who are going to be in Las Vegas and would like to help there.
- Please consider joining the NFTT FaceBook Group. Invite your FaceBook and non-FaceBook friends.
*The following list contains some of the things we would like to include in the packages. Please let us know if you know someone who might be helpful in securing these corporate in-kind donations. (Please DO NOT send these items yourself! We have no way to accept them. Instead, your cash donation is the very best way to help make this happen on the ground in Las Vegas.)
- Baby wipes
- Mechanix gloves
- LED flashlights
- Gel shoe insoles
- Goop Cleaning Gel
- Powdered energy drinks
- Gel energy food packets
- DVDs and CDs
- Letters to the soldiers
- More suggestions coming soon
Important Note about Successful Online Donations
PLEASE DONATE HERE
When you make your online donation, the screen indicates that you are donating to Netroots Nation. This is the right screen! Rest assured all donations WILL go to NFTT. If you wish, feel free to use the comment area provided to note that your donation is intended for Netroots For The Troops. It isn’t necessary to do this however, as this is the only fundraising activity being conducted for Netroots Nation at this time. For further information about online donations, please read TexDem's diary on the subject.