They are the best signs the holiday season is upon us. For the folks bustling about during Christmas, the Salvation Army Red Kettle Bell Ringers are a familiar site at busy store entrances. Shoppers know the ring-a-ling will continue right through Christmas Eve. Each clang of the clapper is usually accompanied by a cheerful greeting or expression of gratitude; money in the pot or not.
The Red Kettle tradition started in 1891. The guy with the idea, Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee, was distraught because so many poor people needed help. In San Francisco, during the holiday season, he resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner for the destitute and poverty stricken. But, he did not have the funds to support his idea.
Captain McFee worried about how to raise money and remembered his days as a sailor in Liverpool, England. He recalled an iron kettle called “Simpson’s Pot” which sat at the harbor. Passers-by would toss coins in to help the local poor. The very next day, Captain McFee placed a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing with a sign that read, “Keep the Pot Boiling.” And of course, every year since 1891, red kettles fill with money this time of year.
As they are worldwide, the bells are ringing here in Carmel as well. Lynn Akerhielm is the Red Kettle Volunteer Coordinator for St. Marks United Methodist Church. Alli Lemberg, Past Coordinator said, “It is a total Church project. Our entire Church membership supports this program and gets behind it full force. We have been bell ringers for six years and it now is an important tradition. It gives us the chance to share Christmas with others.”
Major Beckie Stearns of the Salvation Army oversees the groups working in this area. She said, “The Carmel High School Key Club is another group we count on each year. They ring for us on Saturdays during the Season and people just love their enthusiasm.”
The Carmel Lions Club are ringers with experience. For fifteen years, the Lions led by Tim Reiman have been manning locations around Carmel and the Fashion Mall. For the last ten seasons, they have kept records and know they have contributed $113,000 to the Salvation Army. Their goal this year is to top $15,000 in two hour shifts. Some 50 Lions will ring and ring and ring turning Silent Night into The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Volunteer at www.registertoring.com