Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Red Kettle

 In 1891, Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee was distraught because so many poor individuals in San Francisco were going hungry. During the holiday season, he resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner for the destitute and poverty-stricken. He only had one major hurdle to overcome -- funding the project.

Where would the money come from, he wondered. He lay awake nights, worrying, thinking, praying about how he could find the funds to fulfill his commitment of feeding 1,000 of the city's poorest individuals on Christmas Day. As he pondered the issue, his thoughts drifted back to his sailor days in Liverpool, England. He remembered how at Stage Landing, where the boats came in, there was a large, iron kettle called "Simpson's Pot" into which passers-by tossed a coin or two to help the poor.
The next day Captain McFee placed a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing at the foot of Market Street. Beside the pot, he placed a sign that read, "Keep the Pot Boiling." He soon had the money to see that the needy people were properly fed at Christmas.
Six years later, the kettle idea spread from the west coast to the Boston area. That year, the combined effort nationwide resulted in 150,000 Christmas dinners for the needy. 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 in the U.S., The Salvation Army assists more than four-and-a-half million people during the Thanksgiving and Christmas time periods.
Captain McFee's kettle idea launched a tradition that has spread not only throughout the United States, but all across the world. Kettles are now used in such distant lands as Korea, Japan, Chile and many European countries. Everywhere, public contributions to Salvation Army kettles enable the organization to continue its year-round efforts at helping those who would otherwise be forgotten.
When I was growing up, Christmas and the holidays were connected to "the Red Kettle". Putting a dollar into the Red Kettle made me feel like I was part of something bigger. It made me feel special, like my dollar was going to become the "magic dollar" that helped to change a life. Sometimes Santa's helpers would be ringing the bell next to the kettle, which always prompted questions about Santa, Christmas Magic, and how the heck was Santa going to see every kid in the world on Christmas Eve. 

And now, a little Christmas Holiday Magic, courtesy of the Internet.

What is the Online Red Kettle campaign?
The Salvation Army Red Kettles have been an American tradition since 1891, helping raise financial support for critical Salvation Army programs and services year round.  This campaign allows you to host your own Red Kettle - online.  You become a vital part of the Christmas holiday efforts when you help those in need by hosting an Online Red Kettle and filling it with donations from family, friends and colleagues.

What type of Online Red Kettles are available?
Individual Kettle - An Individual Kettle is your own personal online kettle where you can invite others to donate. 
Team Kettle - A Team Kettle consists of multiple Individual Kettles.  Funds raised by each Individual Kettle within the Team Kettle are combined and reflected on the Team Kettle page.
Company Kettle - A Company Kettle consists of multiple Team Kettles.  Funds raised by each Team within the Company Kettle are combined and reflected on the Company Kettle page.  Individual Kettles can also directly join and support a fundraiser for a Company Kettle without being a part of a Team.

Remember how you felt as a kid, putting that single dollar in the Red Kettle?  Thinking how that dollar was going to make a difference, and how that dollar was going to make someone happy? Remember how it felt to be "empowered" to make a difference, even as a little kid? You will still see this magic today if you look for it - parents giving dollars to their children, to let them put the money into the Red Kettle. Everyone is happy in that moment, the parents, the children and of course all of Santa's Helpers as in that moment, everyone is in alignment. Everyone is living the spirit of the holiday, standing next to that Red Kettle. 
It is good to put money into the Red Kettle, but watching a child do it, that is really special. You know exactly what that child is thinking as the money drops into that magical Red Kettle guarded by Santa and his helpers. 
It just does not get any better than this, does it? 
I would ask you to prayerfully consider putting a Red Kettle on your website. Or sending out a email to promote your own Red Kettle. Want to make it even better? Get your kids involved. What a great family project for the holidays. I guarantee you that you will feel wonderful, and empowered to make a difference, just like you did when you are a little kid.  
And remember, Santa is always watching. 

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