HUTCHINSON, Kan. – The Salvation Army’s Reno County Red Kettle Campaign kicked off Thursday with the first dollars for the campaign put in by downtown businessmen Kevin Rule, Mark Buckley and Chris Barnes, who will be competing to see who can get the most money put into the kettles in front of The Sleep Shoppe, Toy Depot and Smith’s Market respectively.
This year’s campaign has a goal of $400,000, of which, Salvation Army board member Jan Clark said $70,000 comes from the red kettles set up at many locations around the community between now and Christmas.
Chris Barnes of Smiths Market is joining the competition this year, along with Buckley and Rule, to raise funds for the Red Kettle. During Thursday’s kickoff, Barnes pledged to give an apple to donors at Smith’s Market. Buckley is offering a Hot Wheels car to those who feed his kettle. Rule has been the top fundraiser among the group for the past two years.
It’s the community support for Barnes’ 90-year-old business that inspired him to be part of the competition. “We have a really great community. So this is a great way to help give back, and to remind customers there are people in need,” he said.
Rule noted during the kickoff in front of his store that Hutchinson is a giving community. “Every now and then people need to be reminded to give, and that’s where the asks come in. Reminding them to take care of their friends and neighbors,” he said.
Buckley shared his Red Kettle experiences from growing up in a large family in Atchison. The neighborhood he grew up in was not wealthy, and while his father was able to provide Christmas for his family, that was not the case for many of his neighbors. “If it weren’t for the Salvation Army, they would not have had Christmas,” Buckley said. “These were hard-working families, but they didn’t have any money.” It was in Atchison where he and his father rang bells during the holidays.
The theme for this year’s Remo County Red Kettle Campaign is “Love Beyond Christmas.” Major Paul James said the funds raised will make an impact beyond the holiday season. “This year in our community we don’t just need hope for those individuals for Christmas, but they need to know that they have love beyond Christmas,” he said.
In 2021, the Salvation Army provided gifts to over 1,200 children and food baskets to 915 families. With registration for assistance ongoing for another two weeks, Major James said they already have 600 families signed up, and 750 kids awaiting toys. The number of families signed up for food assistance as of Thursday was greater than 100 more than a year ago at this time.
Beyond the holidays, the money raised through the Red Kettle Campaign supports many other programs during the year, including utility assistance, disaster relief, and rent assistance.
Major James said that in August alone, the Salvation Army has assisted almost 78 families. In a typical year, that number is closer to 20 or 30 families. The recent high inflation is a key contributor to leaving families unable to keep up with added expenses.
It takes a lot of people to ring the bells during the holidays, and volunteers are greatly appreciated. Through a partnership with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Salvation Army will give anyone who volunteers a free knit cap. For every two hours a person volunteers to ring bells, they will be entered into a drawing for two tickets to the New Year’s Day Chiefs-Denver Broncos football game.
Anyone wanting to volunteer, go to https://www.registertoring.com/default.aspx and enter 67501. For more information about volunteering for the campaign itself, contact the Salvation Army office at (620) 663-3353.