'Red Kettle Kickoff' Nov. 18

Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
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Thursday, Nov. 18, the St. Cloud Salvation Army will hold its Red Kettle Kickoff from 5:15Ð6 p.m. at the Walmart Superstore on Hwy 15 North. The event will feature festivities for all ages, special guests and "Big SAL," the nation's largest red kettle.

The festivities will begin with appearances by Santa Claus, Major Manuel Madrid of the St. Cloud Salvation Army and St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, who will give the first kettle donation. State Rep. Larry Haws (aka "Santa Haws") will also help kick off the celebration. Join the AM 1240, WJON "Morning Man" Bob Hughes with an on-site live broadcast.

Cookies and hot chocolate, and coffee will be served from a Salvation Army Disaster canteen. For years, Walmart has hosted Salvation Army kettles, provided bell ringers and contributed food, money, materials and volunteers to support the Salvation Army's mission of serving those in need.

"It only seems right to celebrate this event with Walmart," said Major Madrid. "They are a true community partner in helping the growing number of people in need."

The nation's largest red kettle, "Big SAL," will also be on hand. The giant kettle is 8 feet tall and holds more than $230,000 in donations. Salvation Army Disaster Relief mascot "Bunkee The Bear" will be available for photos and will hand out souvenir bells. Try your pitching skills with the River Bats Speed Pitch Booth and win a prize.

The South Jr. High 8th Grade Chamber Chorus, directed by Kara Rysavy, will fill the air with songs of the holiday season. The Chamber Chorus is made up of 25 eighth-grade young women.

The 2010 Bell Ringing campaign goal of the St Cloud Salvation Army is $165,000. This goal reflects the rising number of families in need. Salvation Army volunteers will ring bells in 19 locations throughout the St. Cloud area.

"The Christmas Kettle Kickoff will be fun for everyone, and more important than ever," said Major Madrid. "The need has never been greater, so we hope everyone will be generous in filling the red Salvation Army kettles this season."

Major Madrid emphasized there is a real need for bell ringers this season.

"There are about 6,840 hours of total bell ringing time available during the Christmas season, yet only about half of those hours get filled in a typical year," he said. "We need an additional 600 volunteers this year to ring bells."

"If you've never rung bells before, it's truly a great family activity," Madrid added. "And we'll give you some pointers to make it a wonderful experience."

Volunteering as a bell ringer can make all the difference for St. Cloud families needing extra help because of family crisis, loss of jobs, emergency situations, or disasters.

"All donations received in the area stay in the area for support of local programs and services the whole year," said Madrid.

For those who prefer the Internet, "online red kettles" are available to make contributions to the Salvation Army. Create an online kettle and become a virtual bell ringer at www.thesalarmy.org.

The Salvation Army's Christmas Kettle Campaign continues through Christmas Eve. To volunteer as a bell ringer, please sign up at Kettle Kickoff, or call (320) 257-7423. Donations can also be mailed to or dropped off at 400 Hwy 10 South, St Cloud, MN 56304.