HAGERSTOWN — The Salvation Army kicked off its holiday kettle drive Monday at Valley Mall, and as members of the organization spoke, holiday music played and a $1,000 check exchanged hands.
“We have only one goal this season, and that goal is to bring hope to men and women and boys and girls,” said Maj. Robert Lyle, commanding officer of The Salvation Army in Washington County. “We live in the greatest country in the world, we have the greatest amount of freedom of any nation, but we still have problems here in America, and in Hagerstown, it’s no different.”
Salvation Army Advisory Board member Ward Childerston began the kickoff by telling a story about a gift he received when he was 5 years old.
“My father built a toy barn for me,” he said. “We lived on a ranch in about 1939, and things were pretty tough then financially.”
Childerston talked about how The Salvation Army can help people who might not be in a position to receive gifts they will remember.
“There are a lot of kids that come from homes having a real tough time financially right now,” Childerston said. “We have the opportunity and privilege of filling those kettles with money during the Christmas season and making it possible for us to give Christmas gifts to many children.”
With the goal of raising $96,000 this year through kettles as part of its overall goal of $200,000, The Salvation Army will strive this holiday season to provide families with food and toys.
That goal is up from the $93,000 raised last holiday season through the kettles, part of the approximately $200,000 raised overall, Lyle said. As is done every year, the organization received a $1,000 check from the Kiwanis Club at the kickoff.
There will be 15 to 16 kettle locations throughout the area this season and 17 on the weekends, Lyle said. Locations include Valley Mall, Premium Outlets, Big Lots, Sam’s Club, Walmart and the newly opened Hobby Lobby.
So far, 961 families representing more than 3,600 individuals, including 2,050 young people, have applied for help from The Salvation Army, Lyle said. The organization will partner with Toys for Tots to collect about $30,000 worth of toys.
“There are men and women who are struggling to take care of their children,” Lyle said. “It takes money, donated toys and volunteers in order to provide toys and food.”
Other speakers included Donald Funk, chairman of The Salvation Army advisory board; Harry Barger, director of development at The Salvation Army; and Jim Miller, president of the Kiwanis Club.
Miller presented Lyle with the $1,000 check.
“I’m not surprised by the number of our neighbors that need help,” Miller said. “I’m equally not surprised at the way the citizens who have the ability to step up do that regularly and often to make sure that our community is a great place for all citizens.”
In addition to the food and toys, The Salvation Army will provide a Thanksgiving dinner Wednesday for more than 250 people in its soup kitchen at 541 George St. in Hagerstown, according to Lyle. The money raised by the organization also helps it provide a soup kitchen every week during the year, a shelter with 28 beds for women and children in the county, gifts for nursing home residents and care packages for prison inmates.
“The Salvation Army is more than just Christmas,” Lyle said. “It operates 365 days a year.”