CORBIN — Grammy Award-nominated recording artist Ellie Goulding kicked off the 129th Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign Thursday evening during halftime of the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving matchup against the Buffalo Bills.

According to The Salvation Army’s website, “The kickoff performance is a Cowboys tradition, sounding the call for Americans to donate to the iconic Red Kettle Campaign, which helps provide shelter and meals for the homeless and hungry, Christmas toys for children and social service programs to millions of people in need year-round.”

Locally, the kickoff means bell ringers will be stationed in front of various retail stores in the area.

Sandra Davis, a cancer survivor, has been ringing a bell in front of a red kettle for the last 27 years. She says she has been stationed at just about every local Walmart in our region.

“I’ve been doing it at all the Walmarts in Middlesboro, Pineville, Barbourville, everywhere.”

When asked why she continues to work with the Salvation Army, Davis says it’s because all of the good the organization does for people in need.

“I love all that the Salvation Army does for people. They feed the people, they also cook for people, they help house veterans, and helped out when we had those tornadoes. They gave washing powder, clothes, and blankets and all that stuff.”

Stacy Taylor, who was also standing outside of Corbin’s Walmart Friday, said that’s why he believes some people don’t donate; they aren’t aware of what all the Salvation Army does for people.

“It all depends, some people know how much the Salvation Army does, and what kind of good they do, and some people don’t. I think that plays a big role in it.”

“We used to bring about three buckets in and now it’s hard to bring in one bucket,” said Davis on the decrease in donations over the years. “We’re lucky to bring in one bucket a day.”

This is Taylor’s first year of working with the Salvation Army.

“I wanted to be a part of something helping people,” Taylor explained. “A friend of mine was wanting to do it, and that encouraged me to want to do something good, too.”

Taylor says that bell ringers meet and are dropped off at their destinations by the Salvation Army each morning.

“We’re out here from the time we get dropped off at around 9-9:30 a.m. until they pick us up at about 8 p.m.”

Taylor says that the application process to becoming a bell-ringer was simple.

“You just go in and fill out an application, they give you a little bit of an orientation and give you some pointers on how to greet people.”

“I come here with an empty bucket, when I go on break we leave it at the service counter,” Taylor said. “When they come to pick us up, they take it off the hook, and they’re the ones who count it.”

Those wishing to volunteer to be a bell ringer can do so online. However, as the Corbin/Barbourville/London region isn’t listed under the state of Kentucky, the website says to contact your local Salvation Army to schedule a bell ringing shift.

The closest Salvation Army to our region is the Middlesboro location. They can be reached at 606-248-4925.

“It’s a good thing, it is,” said Davis on her experience with the Salvation Army. “I love it. I help out and volunteer when I can. I help them cook, and stuff like that on service Sundays.”

The Salvation Army was founded in 1865 in London, England by minister William Booth and his wife Catherine. Booth aimed to model the Salvation Army after the military. The group had its own flag, its own hymns, and Booth would have himself and his other “officers” dress in military uniforms during meetings.

Booth’s early goal with the Salvation Army was to help lead the poorer people of his community towards Christianity. Catherine would travel and speak with the wealthier citizens of London and ask for financial support for the group’s work.

In 1880, Booth’s Salvation Army began spreading internationally, as it had made its way to the United States. George Scott Railton and a group of Salvation Army members began their work in Harry Hill’s Variety Theatre on March 14, 1880. It was not uncommon for men that Booth sent to other countries to find that a Salvation Army presence had already been established in that country. Sometimes immigrants and natives had already started working for the Salvation Army under their own authority.

The Salvation Army’s famous red kettle began in San Fransisco in 1891 by Joseph McFee. McFee was looking for a way to provide a free Christmas dinner for the hungry. To pay for the meals, McFee remembered an iron kettle called a “Simpson’s Pot” that passers-by would toss a coin into to help the poor. He had seen the iron kettle during his sailor days at England’s Stage Landing.

The next day, McFee placed his kettle pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing and within six years the idea had spread across the country resulting in 150,000 Christmas dinners being provided to the needy.

Today the Salvation Army boasts 1.5 million members in 130 countries. The organization claims to assist approximately 23 million Americans annually. Last year’s Red Kettle Campaign raised $142.7 million.

To donate to the Salvation Army and the Red Kettle Campaign visit Give.SalvationArmyUSA.org. You can also donate by dropping money into any of the thousands of red kettles at partner storefront locations, asking Amazon Alexa by saying, “Alexa, donate to The Salvation Army,” then specify the amount, by signing up to give a sustaining monthly donation to help The Salvation Army year-round, or by texting “KETTLES” to 91999.

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