When you hear bells jingling at the front entrance of a few local retail outlets, you know the holiday season is officially underway.
That’s what Capt. Mark King from the Pahrump Salvation Army says anyway.
Last Friday, the organization officially kicked off its 2013 Red Kettle Fundraiser at Walmart, one of two locations in town.
King said in years past there were additional locations in town but those were forced to stop operating.
“We now have two doors at Walmart and of course the Smith’s location. Unfortunately it’s all about traffic and being able to have a store that warrants having a kettle out there. There has been some changes in corporate policy and while we are not being supported with having a bell ringer, we are being supported in other ways, so we are very grateful for that,” he said.
The red kettle event is the largest fundraiser of the year for the organization.
King said monies collected from the drive fund other important year-round programs sponsored by the Salvation Army.
Additionally, other holiday related programs are already underway.
“The Christmas food and toy signups are underway and word got out to schools from our social service office, but if folks want to receive any kind of service, whether it be a monthly food box or a voucher from the thrift store, they can go to our Salvation Army Social Service Office next to the thrift store behind Walmart,” he said.
The Red Kettle Drive has proven worth its weight in gold for the organization.
Last year, King said thousands of dollars were raised during the annual fundraiser.
“We were able to raise $30,600 just in Pahrump last year and what was great about that was all of the money was used in Pahrump; it all stayed in Pahrump,” he said.
From time to time, there have been national news reports about anonymous donors dropping extremely valuable items in the kettles.
King noted that Pahrump was no exception when it came to discovering something unexpected after the bells stopped ringing and the kettles were opened.
“We have never had a diamond ring but we have been lucky that there have been some very valuable coins that have been deposited in our kettles. We take those to a reputable coin dealer and have them appraised. In one particular instance, we had a gold coin that was worth almost $500. We got one of those every year for about three years. It wasn’t an accident, it was purposeful giving and we are very blessed for that,” he said.
The organization this year is adopting a new strategy to boost fundraising efforts this year compared to past drives.
Advisory Board Member Wendy Thompson-King (no relation), said the board is looking to enlist more volunteers to ring the bells as a way of saving more monies that would benefit the agency.
“I thought that if we could save the money that we are paying people, how many more people could we help? I have a lot of community connections and I started calling people. We got hundreds of hours’ worth of volunteers to help this season but if you are out of work or you need work we are still hiring people for bell ringing because we were not able to fill all of the spots so it’s a win-win for everybody,” she said.
Meanwhile, Capt. King said students from the Pahrump Valley High School Key Club are volunteering to ring the bells for the next few weeks.
He also gave thanks to an NFL team owner who during a recent game officially kicked off the 2013 event on national television.
“We are very blessed to have the support of the high school’s Key Club. Today they are at both Walmart locations as well as Smith’s. They will be ringing three days a week during the campaign. We are also very grateful for Jerry Jones who owns the Dallas Cowboys when he announced the national campaign of the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Drive on Thursday. The Cowboys happened to win that game and that’s the one day of the year that I root for the Cowboys,” he said.
King also noted that this year the organization has less time to collect funds as Thanksgiving came later in November than usual.
“Just by the way the calendar was this year we have six less days for our bell ringing campaign than last year. Because of that, we are not hoping to break any records. We are just hoping to break even. Even though we don’t have as many days, we want to be able to help as many people that we are accustomed to helping,” he said.
The Salvation Army has again teamed up with the Toys for Tots foundation for the holiday toy drive this year.
For more information on volunteering or receiving services, call the Salvation Army’s main office at 751-6171.