Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Red Kettle History

In the midst of all your shopping, last-minute errands and trips to the grocery store as you prepare to celebrate Christmas, please remember those less fortunate in your communities.  Make the holiday special for someone in need by dropping a few coins into the Salvation Army Kettles outside your local grocery store or favorite big box retailer.  Dig between the sofa cushions, check beneath the seats in your car and ask your kids to spare a few pennies from their piggy banks…a little goes a long way!   

Here's a little history on those famous RedKettles.

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.

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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.

Do you have a favorite charity you like to donate to during the holidays?

Marin Thomas
A Rodeo Man's Promise (Dec 2011)
Arizona Cowboy (Feb 2012)


linda s said...

Great post, Marin. I didn't know any of that. We support quite a few including the Salvation Army and the food banks. Also Covenant House - the home, support center for homeless street children in Vancouver. They do good work.

Jo said...

That is interesting. One of the things I do like about this season is that it is a time for giving and thinking of others, more so than any other time. May we never lose the Christmas spirit!

Pamela Stone said...

Wonderful post. I didn't know most of this. My daughter-in-law just went to work for the Salvation Army.

When I worked in an office, we always had a food drive and an angel tree. It was fun to choose a child and buy special gifts for them. One year at church, when I was a teen, we each chose the name of a child at a local orphanage and then had a party and invited them. We got to know the child we'd bought for and spend time with them. Made you really understand their situation.

It's so easy at Christmas to remember to give. I wish I was better at not losing focus the rest of the year.

Lee McKenzie said...

Thanks for posting this, Marin! I had no idea how the red kettles got started, but they are certainly ubiquitous with Christmas. I tossed a few coins in one yesterday. We also make a holiday donation to the food bank.

Pam, when it comes to letting the Christmas spirit slide, you're not alone. When I go downtown I often see a disabled man at a particular street corner. If he's there, I always give him my spare change. I should do more, but at least that's something.

Linda, Covenant House sounds like a wonderful cause. It's heartbreaking to think of homeless children, especially when so many of us have so much.

I'm with you, Jo. Every day can't be Christmas, but may the spirit of it be with us all year.

Marin Thomas said...

Hi ladies
I agree with everyone that we need to keep the "spirit" of Christmas alive by doing what we can to help others during the holiday season. Those red kettles are a great opportunity to teach young children the meaning of giving by allowing them to take a few coins from their piggy banks at home and drop them into the kettles...I did this with my kids many years ago.

Megan Kelly said...

Thanks for the insight, Marin. I didn't know this story, either. I always gave my kids money (change or a dollar bill) to put in the kettle as we entered a store. They really got a kick out of it, and I'm hoping they will continue to give when it's their money, lol.
I try to support my chosen charities throughout the year, but of course could do better. One way to help at non-Christmas is to give the food from your vacation condo/hotel room to the homeless person on the street. While on vacation after Thanksgiving, my DD and I hoped the unopened box of cereal would make someone's day.

Linda Warren said...

I didn't know this either, but we've always dropped money in the red kettle, several times actually.

Ann Roth said...

Marin- This is fascinating! One of my favorite charities is located in Washington State. Treehouse (http://www.treehouse4kids.org) is a foster care agency.I volunteer for the annual radio telethon, which raised $400,000 in 24 hours last year. Hopefully we'll raise even more this year. What impresses me is the generosity of the donors. People open their hearts and their wallets. For me, giving is the true meaning of this season.