The Salvation Army ‘Red Kettles’ ring in donations, help needy

Ed Shockley, president of the Rotary Club of Superstition Mountain, volunteers at a Mesa business collecting money for the Salvation Army. The club meets at 12:10 p.m. Wednesdays at Gold Canyon Golf Resort, 6100 S. Kings Ranch Road in Gold Canyon.

Just as common as sights of shopping carts and crowded parking lots in front of stores during this time of year is another familiar scene.

As you enter and exit many stores, it’s not uncommon to see a person standing in front of a red kettle, ringing a bell, encouraging shoppers to donate to The Salvation Army.

This is a busy time of year for the organization, said Maj. Kris Suarez of the Apache Junction Corps during a phone interview on Dec. 7.
“For our office, it’s a very busy time for us. We normally start at 7 a.m. and don’t get home until about 10:30 or 11 p.m.,” Maj. Suarez said of the day’s work during the holidays, compounded by the regular duties.

He and his wife, Maj. Terry Suarez, manage kettle workers throughout their community, including east Mesa, San Tan Valley and Queen Creek. They also oversee the Christmas Angel Project for the area. Tags are affixed to Christmas trees in places such as the mall, libraries, the Chamber of Commerce so needy children can receive toys.

“We have them all over the region,” he said of the trees that are even in Queen Creek and San Tan Valley.

He said donations and toys contributed in his region “absolutely stays in the community.” Many of the tags have clothing sizes for children. Requests range from Barbie dolls to action figures like Superman and Wonder Woman.

“There are a lot of requests for educational toys,” he added, noting his degree in education and how happy that made him.

He said advanced preparations are necessary to assist numerous families who are also chosen to receive a Christmas food box a week before the holiday at the Apache Junction site since the location will be closed on Christmas.

People who may need a meal that day are encouraged to attend The Salvation Army’s annual complimentary Christmas dinner at the Phoenix Convention Center, Maj. Kris Suarez said, adding that there will be free medical care too that day. Doors open at 9:30 a.m., meal service begins at 11:30 a.m. and doors close at 12:30 p.m.

Bell ringers recruited during the holiday season help raise “critical funds we need to make our life-transforming programs and services possible for our neighbors who need us most.” According to a press release, The Salvation Army’s 127th Annual Red Kettle Campaign, “The Big Ring,” was held on Dec. 5 at Fry’s Food Stores. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Fry’s associates volunteered as bells ringers at their grocery stores throughout the Valley.

Representatives from The Salvation Army were joined by The Arizona Rattlers’ mascot, Stryker, and members of the Sidewinders dance squad at the Fry’s, at 4724 N. 20th St., for two hours during the statewide fundraiser.

“We are very appreciative of Fry’s for this tremendous gift,” said Lt. Col. Kelly Pontsler, divisional commander of The Salvation Army’s Phoenix-based Southwest Division, in a prepared statement. “Volunteer efforts such as Fry’s’ mean more of the donations raised can go to funding our many vital social service programs.”

“The Salvation Army encourages any company, group or individual to give of their time as bell ringers. Just one-hour ringing at a Red Kettle can feed a family of four for an entire day,” Lt. Col. Kelly Pontsler added.

Donations to the Red Kettles comprise 25-to-28 percent of funds toward The Salvation Army in the metro Phoenix area for the entire year, according to The Salvation Army – Southwest Division Public Relations Director Scott Johnson. Those donations help support more than 325,000 people annually. Donations are tallied at the beginning of the year.

“The Salvation Army is always looking for bell ringers to volunteer at Red Kettles. Volunteering for just one hour can feed a family of four for a day. The more volunteer bell ringers we have, the more resources available to fund our diverse variety of life-changing social service programs,” Mr. Johnson said in a prepared statement. “We are very grateful for all of the businesses that allow The Salvation Army Red Kettles at their storefronts.”

While he said many storefront agreements are secured on a local, regional and national level, there are stores “that have partnered with The Salvation Army on various campaigns for years, so in the case of Red Kettles, often it’s just a simple ask.”

Reportedly, The Salvation Army’s signature Red Kettle began providing a free holiday dinner to the poor in San Francisco, in 1891. The organization, founded in London, has supported the needy without discrimination for more than 135 years in the U.S.

Nearly 25 million Americans receive assistance each year. Donations to the Red Kettles make up about 20-percent of contributions to The Salvation Army in Arizona for the whole year.

Assistance to the needy includes offering food for the hungry, relief for disaster survivors, helping the disabled, reaching out to the sick and elderly; providing clothing and shelter to the homeless, plus opportunities for underprivileged children.

Operations of The Salvation Army are supervised by trained, commissioned officers, “proclaiming the gospel,” who serve as administrators, teachers, social workers, counselors, youth leaders and musicians, Mr. Johnson noted.

Editor’s note: Delarita Ford is a reporter in the North Valley office of Independent Newsmedia.


Salvation Army Corps sites

•Apache Junction, 605 E. Broadway Avenue

•Mesa, 241 E. Sixth St.

The Salvation Army is a qualifying agency under the Arizona Credit for Contributions to Qualifying Charitable Organizations. The maximum credit for a donation to The Salvation Army is $400 for individuals and $800 for married couples filing jointly.

For more information or to volunteer, contact your local Salvation Army Corps site. Visit, or call volunteer coordinator Danielle Shankle at 602-267-4117.

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