HIGHLAND | Entertainment, free hot chocolate and the lighting of an oversize red kettle are highlights of the public 2013 Salvation Army Red Kettle Drive Kick Off at the Highland Strack & Van Til Supermarket Thursday.
The outdoor festivities begin at 5 p.m. at 9632 Cline Ave with a performance by the Salvation Army East Chicago Youth Band and Singing Co.
Event coordinator Capt. Rebecca Simmons said this year’s public event is a change from the traditional kickoff events.
“In the past we have always held kettle kickoff dinners,” Simmons said.
“This year we are having more of a public event that anyone can come to, something outside that is more representative of what we do.”
The goal for Lake County this year is $940,000, which is 8 percent higher than funds collected in the 2012 drive, Simmons said.
The kettle drive begins Friday at 95 Lake County locations. Salvation Army bell ringers are all volunteers, including service club and church members.
Simmons said a larger number of kettle ringers is being sought to help this year. Interested volunteers can call any local Salvation Army office or apply online at http://www.salarmychicago.org/ and click on “volunteer.”
“We are trying to raise more money with less cost,” Simmons said.
Simmons said kettle locations will include area Strack & Van Til Supermarkets, along with Walmart, Walgreens and Big Lots stores.
Locally, Salvation Army will provide toys and food vouchers to those in need for the holidays. The group's annual Thanksgiving dinner will be Tuesday Nov. 26 at the East Chicago location, 513 W. Chicago Ave.
Simmons said she believes the kickoff will be a joyous start to the campaign, which generates nearly 70 percent of the funds used year-round to provide programs and services to people in need.