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BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS

Photos by Kate Albright
winters@montclairlocal.news

The Salvation Army Montclair Red Kettle Kick-Off kicked off its 130th season of giving in front of Coldwell-Banker Realty on Bellevue Avenue today, Nov. 28.  

This year’s campaign, “Rescue Christmas,” begins with the greater needs and challenges presented by the pandemic.  The funds raised through the organization’s iconic red kettles are at risk of being lower this year due to COVID-19, with the closing of retail stores, consumers carrying less cash and a decline in foot traffic.

Last year, $126 million was raised nationally through about 30,000 red kettles. The Salvation Army this year could see up to a 50-percent decrease in funds raised through the kettles, which would limit their capability to provide services for the most vulnerable.  

Requests for services are at an all-time high, however.  

Since March, The Salvation Army New Jersey has provided more than 6.3 million meals, 58,970 nights of safe shelter and 29,000 emotional and spiritual contacts to people in need. 

Based on the increase in services already provided in response to the pandemic, the organization could serve up to 155 percent more people in 2020 — 50 percent more people during the holiday season — including putting food on the table, paying bills, providing shelter and helping place gifts under the tree. In New Jersey, the Salvation Army served over 39,000 people last year. Salvation Army officials hope to meet the needs of 61,000 people this holiday season.

Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller was in attendance as well as Salvation Army staff, volunteers, musicians and bell ringers. 

Now more than ever, they’re making it safer and simpler to donate:

  • Via red kettles at store locations such as Wal-Mart, ShopRite, Kings, etc.
  • By participating in The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, which gives hope and joy to kids and families in need.
  • By donating digitally with Apple Pay or Google Pay at any red kettle in New Jersey via Salvationarmynj.org.
  • By giving any amount by texting “KETTLES” to 91999.
  • By bringing donations to the Montclair Citadel Corps at 13 Trinity Place.
  • By enlisting in Love’s Army with a sustaining monthly gift of $25.

All gifts stay within the community in which they are given. Visit RescueChristmas.org to donate or learn more about how to help. If you need services or know of someone in need, please visit www.SalvationArmyNJ.org to find a location near you.

The kettle campaign

In 1891, Salvation Army Capt. Joseph McFee saw many poor individuals in San Francisco who were going hungry. During the holiday season, he resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner to 1,000 of the city’s poorest on Christmas Day. He only had one major hurdle to overcome — funding the project.

Recalling 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 coins to help the poor.

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,” to raise money to feed the needy 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, The Salvation Army assists more than 4½ million people during the Thanksgiving and Christmas time periods.

Kettles are now used in such distant lands as Korea, Japan and Chile as well as in many European countries.