The little red kettle that could

December 13, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

The little girl in a pink sweatshirt walks up to the familiar red kettle as she leaves Kmart and, standing on her toes, deposits the dollar bill her mother has just given to her.

The girl smiles because she knows her donation will help others — what she doesn't know is just how far that dollar, joined with thousands of others, will go toward providing a Christmas for those in the Imperial Valley who might not otherwise have one.

As she walks away, another person places some change in the red kettle; and yet another does the same.

And so it continues throughout the day.

The kettle belongs to The Salvation Army and is a key part of that agency's efforts to give food and toys to families in hard times who cannot afford a holiday feast or presents for their children.

Every day, Salvation Army workers and volunteers stand in front of stores in El Centro, Calexico and Brawley.


These are the bell ringers, whose continuous chimes are meant to draw out generosity.

The money people drop into the kettles will go toward providing food baskets for some 400 local families and new toys for their children.

"It is a concerted community effort to help needy families at this time," said Capt. Julio Vasquez, head of the local Salvation Army, adding money people deposit, plus donations of food and toys from individuals and organizations, enable the Salvation Army to provide such a service.

He added money raised through the kettles will help The Salvation Army provide services both at Christmastime and in the months leading into summer.

Vasquez said while he appreciates the donations received, he added those donations are coming in a bit slower this year.

"During this time, sharing is caring for others," he said. "When we share we are able to help those who have a lot less than we do."

Salvation Army workers and volunteers spend their days in front of Wal-Mart, Kmart, Vons and Albertsons in El Centro; Wal-Mart in Calexico and, when staffing permits, in front of Vons in Brawley.

From 1 to 8 p.m. Sundays, youths — all volunteers — sing Christmas carols in front of each of the El Centro stores.

Members of the El Centro Kiwanis Club will volunteer Saturday to ring bells all day in El Centro.

On a daily basis, the Salvation Army bell ringers are out in front of stores from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

They say it can get tiring, standing and continuously ringing the bells, but they insist it is worth it.

On a recent day Judy Granillo of El Centro was collecting donations outside Wal-Mart.

She said The Salvation Army plays a major role at Christmas.

"It's important for the kids who wouldn't have any Christmas or to families that wouldn't have any Christmas," Granillo said.

She added, "I would like to see more people give; it doesn't matter if it's just a little change; even just a quarter."

As Beatrice Zambrano of El Centro walked from Wal-Mart with her son, Jesus, 2, who was sitting in a cart, she stopped to donate — handing the money to the tot to put it in the kettle.

"I like to help whenever I can," Zambrano said, adding she thinks it's important to teach her son to give. "I would like to see him helping others in the future."

Marjorie Kennedy of El Centro also stopped to give a donation. Kennedy, an officer in the El Centro Elks Lodge, said it is natural for her to give.

"There are so many needy people who do need help, and it is good to do it," she said.

Eva Villero of El Centro stopped to give what she could.

"It's for The Salvation Army," she said. "I help them and they help me, too."

In front of Kmart, Macrina Barraza of El Centro was ringing chimes as she stood next to a red kettle.

She said a lot of people have been stopping to donate money, adding it makes her feel good every time someone takes a moment to pull out some change or a dollar.

She said of her work, "I think it is worth it because there are a lot of kids who would not receive Christmas presents this year and we're going to help them."

Vasquez said the majority of the people who will receive food baskets and presents have already been selected but there is room for more.

He said people can contact The Salvation Army if they have questions. He said he understands emergency situations can occur and people unexpectedly find themselves in need.

If The Salvation Army can help, it will.

Anyone wishing to contact The Salvation Army can call 352-4528.

Back at the stores, people donating time as bell ringers continue their tireless work.

The chime is constant, unending, its song echoing throughout parking lots and even into the stores where customers shop.

Salvation Army officials hope people hear the chimes and continue to answer their call through Dec. 24.

"It does make a difference," Vasquez said. "It does help families."

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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