Wise Up

The Red Kettle

The next time you hear the ringing of the bell, follow the sound and respond to the invitation to help those in need! By Major Billy Francis
Wise Up
Red Kettle

Christmas bells are ringing in front of Red Kettles all over America. The season is here! This familiar sight of the bell and kettle are sewn into the fabric of American culture. This tandem relationship of sight and sound (Red Kettle and bell) is an invitation to partner with us in helping those in need. So, how did the Red Kettle become what it is today? 

By 1891, The Salvation Army had served in 26 countries and expanded 25 percent in the previous five years. In the United States, the Army vigilantly demonstrated its commitment to the Army’s international motto of “Heart to God and Hand to Man.”    

In November 1891, Captain Joseph McFee faced his overwhelming goal to provide a Christmas dinner for 1,000 of the poorest individuals and families in San Francisco, CA. Lying in bed one night, he recalled his days as a young sailor in Liverpool, England where an iron kettle called “Simpson’s Pot” was placed on the Stage Landing wharf. As people walked past the kettle, they would toss in a few coins. Most of the coins were farthings, each one worth one-quarter of a penny. The donations were distributed to the poor. Joseph sat up in bed and exclaimed, “That’s it!”

The next day, Captain Joseph purchased the largest crab pot he could find. He hung the pot between the three legs of a metal tripod. On top of the stand, he placed a large sign that read, “Fill the Pot for the Poor—Free Dinner on Christmas Day.” Captain Joseph’s innovative campaign was an overwhelming success. 

The Christmas Red Kettle campaign spread throughout the country and in time around the world. In 1901, Red Kettle contributions in New York City funded a Christmas Dinner that filled Madison Square Garden—a tradition that lasted many years. In November and December 2021, The Salvation Army USA assisted over 4.5 million people.

We stand tall on the shoulders of Captain Joseph McFee and continue to invite others to share God’s love during the Christmas season. The next time you hear the ringing of the bell, follow the sound and respond to the invitation to help those in need. 

So What?

How are you helping those in need this Christmas? How are you responding to the invitation? How are you giving to others this season?

This article was published in the December 2021 issue of Peer.

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