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Big Finish Sought for Red Kettle Drive

Sandra Averhart
WUWF Public Media

The Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle Drive is wrapping up.  The fundraising campaign comes to a close on Christmas Eve and organizers are hoping for a big finish to meet their goals for this year.

Adorned in Salvation Army’s iconic red aprons, bell-ringers have been posted at local retail outlets across the region for the better part of the last couple of months.  As of Monday, December 23rd, there’s just one full day to go. On this day, bell-ringer Joseph James greets last minute shoppers at the Wal-Mart at 9th and Creighton in Pensacola.

“It’s starting to pick up now…The closer it gets to Christmas, the more generous people are getting,” James said.

Among the individuals making a contribution in James’ kettle on their way out of the store, are Don Suarez and Pris Bonelli. Bonelli says she’s happy to give. “Well, I try every year, when I come up here shopping, every time I come up here shopping, to put something in. If I have extra change left over, I try to give the biggest bill I have. I mean, I don’t need it. It’s just me and my friend, and I have a big family, but we have everything we need. So, I try to help out as much as I can.”

Capt. Bob Cornett is Commanding Officer for Salvation Army of Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties, which set a goal of $300,000.  The Pensacola corps started the day about $37,000 short.  But, Cornett says the given tends to pick up in the last couple of days, especially Christmas Eve.

“That’s when everybody’s in the mood. They’re thinking about it. In most cases, people are done shopping and have done what they needed to do, what they wanted to do. And, they have a little bit of extra change and figure out they have a little bit left over and they put it in the buckets,” says Cornett.
The Pensacola corps raised 267 thousand dollars during last year’s kettle drive.

Meantime, the campaign in the Okaloosa-Walton area had raised about $148,000 of their $175,000 goal as of early Monday afternoon. Lt. Chris Welch heads the Fort Walton Beach Corps. He says the holiday fund-raising effort goes a long way toward helping families at Christmas and many months after.  “There are folks who are able to stay in their homes, keep food on the table and keep the lights on because of the gifts that are given because of the Red Kettle. And, that’s all year round, 365 days, and not just Christmas time. So, we are very grateful for the many gifts that are given to the red kettle,” says Welch.

Across the four-county region, the Red Kettle Drive provided Christmas toys for a combined total of nearly 3,000 children.

In Okaloosa-Walton, the campaign also helps to fund a food pantry, and soup kitchen in Crestview. In the Esca-Rosa area, the campaign helps support an emergency shelter for men and women and a community center that provides organized athletic programs for youth.

Click here for more information about the Salvation Army.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.