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Local Salvation Army Kicks Off Red Kettle Campaign; Asks Residents To Volunteer

Across the nation, the Salvation Army is kicking off its famous Red Kettle campaign. And, the Big Bend area’s local chapter is doing the same and is asking local residents to volunteer their time toward helping its cause.

As the holiday season approaches, it’s that time of year when you’ll hear Holiday music as well as the sounds of bells ringing as you approach a street corner or as you go shopping.

It’s the sound of the Salvation Army’s bell ringers, dressed up in their red aprons, who ask for donations to help the needy. And, Tuesday marked the kickoff of a local chapter of the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign, which serves Leon, Wakulla, and Gadsden counties throughout the year.

" We serve through our disaster service program, to our social service to our kids program to our college outreach to our thrift store," said Captain Julio Da Silva, a Commanding Officer with the local chapter's Salvation Army.

"So, when people come knocking on our door, asking for help, to pay for their utility bills and when they are struggling, we are there for them because of this money we raise on the kettle.”

Da Silva took part in Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony on the steps of the Old Historic Florida Capitol to commemorate the start of the Red Kettle campaign, along with music from a Brass ensemble.

Da Silva says last year, they raised about 139,000 dollars, but some of that money had to go toward paying bell ringers they had hired because the Salvation Army did not have enough volunteers. He says that’s why they’re asking the community to not only donate, but to volunteer as well.

“We have 25 locations around the three counties that we serve. We need to cover those locations," said Da Silva. "We ring the bells for eight hours. So, as you do the math, you see we need a lot of people to ring those bells. Otherwise, you have to pay. But, when we pay for an hour or for eight hours, it takes us away from raising money. So, that’s why we need as many volunteers as possible.”

DaSilva says he hopes residents will also continue supporting this year’s Angel Tree campaign.

“It’s there to help the kids whose parents don’t have enough to buy clothing, food, and toys to help their kids," said Da Silva. So, we put these angels at the Governor Square Mall, and people can come and adopt those angels, and buy those toys for them [the kids] and December 20th, we come together and give [out] those toys.”

Last year, Da Silva says the group helped more than 2,500 kids during the Angel Tree campaign, and this year, their goal is to help 3,000.

Meanwhile, the 2012 Red Kettle Season started Monday and will run until Christmas Eve, December 24th. And, Da Silva says he hopes many residents will participate in both campaigns, to help bring joy to the world.

For information about how you can get involved, visit the local Salvation Army Website.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.