The jingling of bells has begun in front of local storefronts, signifying the return of the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle campaign.

The Salvation Army of Owensboro is led by Capt. Alyssa Irvin and her husband, Lt. Judah Irvin, who will be overseeing their first campaign, which started Friday and ends Dec. 24.

Judah Irvin said there are still great needs from those who have not been able to fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Across the board, and in most areas, the assistance we provide has gone up; we’re seeing more people asking for help and asking for assistance,” he said.

On Thursday, the campaign kicked off with the annual chili fundraiser that drew a large number of people from the community, ready to support the cause of the faith-based organization.

Bill Spurrier, a 79-year-old Owensboro native who lives in Evansville, was there volunteering with his wife Judy and sister Nora Anne Crowe. They were swiftly filling to-go orders of chili, hotdogs, chips, dessert and a drink.

Spurrier said his family believes in the good the Salvation Army does in the community.

“This is my 25th year volunteering,” said Spurrier, who regularly makes the trek between his hometown and Evansville. “...I retired after 40 years at Whirlpool, so now I love to do this.”

According to the Salvation Army’s 2021 statistical report, it provided 3,893 clothing items, 13,149 mobile meals, 4,279 food boxes, 615 housing/utility requests and 1,131 Bibles. In total, the Salvation Army assisted 22,397 people.

The Owensboro-based Salvation Army serves not only Daviess but also Ohio, Hancock and McLean counties.

Judah Irvin said residents in any of those counties are eligible for emergency services such as food boxes, rental and utility assistance and Christmas assistance.

“The monies that we raise from the kettle support our mission year round,” he said. “And our mission is to bring hope to the hopeless.”

During the month-plus campaign, the Salvation Army depends on volunteer and paid bell ringers to collect donations.

Judah Irvin said the more volunteers they have helps with what they can put toward the assistance programs.

“We never have enough volunteers, so every year we have to pay different people to go stand outside and ring to collect money on our behalf,” he said. “The truth is, it would be amazing if we had more volunteers — families, Sunday school groups, office teams or any individuals who want to come out and make a difference in their community by spreading some joy with the bell. …It allows us to fulfill our mission year-round to meet human needs in the name of Jesus Christ.”

The Irvins are currently recruiting volunteers to fill any shift.

But then there’s another program called Kettle Captains that helps fill larger time gaps.

“That’s where you dedicate yourself for five hours to manning a kettle,” Judah Irvin said. “…You can get five different people … to ring one hour each. Or if you can’t make that commitment, we also have two- or three-hour volunteer shifts that are available.”

This year’s Red Kettle campaign goal is to raise $133,000.

And even with fewer people carrying cash and coins on them, Judah Irvin said the kettles are equipped with QR codes and near field communication (NFC) tags that can read smartphones with Apple Pay, Google Pay or debit cards.

“I hear people say that all the time, ‘Oh well, I don’t have cash; I’m sorry,’ ” Judah Irvin said. “It has negatively impacted somewhat, but there are still those people who believe in the Salvation Army and have joy from their giving and do make a point to get cash or write a check.”

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer bell ringer can contact the Salvation Army of Owensboro at 270-685-5576.

 

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