The Chillicothe red kettle campaign for the Salvation Army has come a long way from its first campaign total, $700.
Volunteer kettle coordinator Ed Dutton said he thinks the first kettle was offered in 1984 in the same place it has remained, Chillicothe’s Kroger grocery store.
Locally, the Army had a few familiar faces who helped out mainly transients. The late Gail “Mike” Myers, and his wife, Louise, served as the secretary for years. Theda Allen also assisted in running the local Salvation Army.
While the kettle location has not changed, along the way counter kettles were added as a way for residents to support the work of the Salvation Army as they visit various businesses around town.
In the early years of bell ringing, Dutton said whoever could ring the bell would, but it is not quite the same as now.
Each year thereafter more volunteers were added.
It did not hurt that the various challenges were issued: the IVC Challenge for high school student groups to compete against each other. Some rang for foreign language groups, such as the Spanish and French National Honor Societies, as well as the IVC band, athletic department and more.
Joining in the good-natured competition were the adults, who competed within their own groups of service clubs, the fire department, churches and more.
For at least a decade, local “celebrities” kick off the event as they ring for an hour to see how much money they can raise.
Dutton estimates more than 100 residents volunteer their time to ring the bell.
Some groups pick days, or even a week to help the Army, but there are times when no one volunteers to man the post.
“It just sits there. We don’t fill all the times,” said Dutton of the kettle which is manned all by volunteers.
It can be a daunting task to fill all the slots for the 37 days of fundraising with 296 hours worth of bell ringing, which runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. six days a week.
Time slots are available by calling Dutton at 274-2794.
While ringing the bell is important, Dutton does not forget those who make it easier.
Bell ringers have a little shelter from the cold, thanks to Kroger, and South Side Bank employees count the donations given as residents drop a little change or scrunch a bill into the red kettle.