SHERIDAN — The day after Thanksgiving marks two holiday traditions — Black Friday and in Sheridan, the beginning of the Red Kettle Campaign of The Salvation Army.
The tradition of Salvation Army Red Kettles pre-dates the Black Friday concept by decades. The first red kettles were distributed in 1891 by a Salvation Army officer who wanted to operate a soup kitchen on Christmas for needy people, but lacked funding to do so. He had been a sailor in England, and remembered pots put out at the wharfs to collect coin donations from sailors. He decided to try the same thing at the Oakland Ferry Landing in San Francisco.
“What he did, he asked and they allowed him to put a soup kettle there and collected money and he was able to support a soup kitchen and it just took off from there,” Sheridan SA Commanding Officer Don Warriner said.
The kettles are now spread across most cities in the country and in foreign countries such as Korea, Japan and Chile as well.
Warriner said in some large cities, the kettles with their accompanying bell ringers begin appearing outside stores well before Thanksgiving, but in Sheridan, the kettles always make their first appearance on Black Friday.
Warriner said the money collected during the holiday season helps provide funding to SA programs throughout the year and in fact, the holiday and winter months see the most demand for services.
“The money we raise in the kettles helps us throughout the year for our programs,” Warriner said. ”Usually, actually, during the winter we have increased need. What happens is they are trying to keep their place somewhat warm and their utilities go up and they have less money for food and other things.”
Warriner said the kettles and ringers will be located at eight area stores this year, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The bell ringers and kettle attendants are a combination of volunteers and paid staff.
Warriner said he has several groups signed up for volunteer service and always welcomes more.
“Our goal this year is to make around $40,000,” he said. “I think we made a little over $40,000 last year but we have a week less this year. One way I can make more with less is by the volunteer effort. What’s unique about this town or this Salvation Army is that a lot of our staff even like to volunteer to ring a bell. I know that just by the short time I’ve been here that the people of Sheridan are very generous just by how they support all the different programs and organizations in the community.”
Warriner noted that 90 percent of local donations remain in Sheridan County for SA programs. While the numbers fluctuate regularly, Warriner said the SA provided services to 240 families in the Sheridan area in October.
“The way I look at the kettles is that whether you put money in or you are standing at the kettle ringing you are helping someone less fortunate and you are always helping somebody,” he said.