The bright red kettles scattered across Northwest Indiana signal the start of the holiday season.
But those iconic Salvation Army kettles are about so much more than Christmas. Those collections are needed year-round to help with food, utility and housing emergency assistance, food pantries, hunger programs, youth programming and summer camp, disaster assistance and case management/social services.
Meeting that demand is a tall order — raising in less than two months enough money to cover a year's worth of needs.
That's why The Salvation Army kicked off its red kettle campaign a few weeks earlier this year. Bell ringing in Lake County began Nov. 2, with sites gradually added throughout the month, culminating with some 100 sites the day after Thanksgiving. Bell ringers began staffing the kettles Nov. 8 in Porter County at 24 locations throughout the county and Nov. 12 in LaPorte County.
The kettles will be in place until Christmas Eve.
Lake County's goal for kettle collections is $500,000. Porter County hopes to raise $130,000. Eighty-two cents of each dollar donated goes to provide services to those in need.
The Lake County drive is going well with a spike in donations and bell-ringing volunteers. Donations are 50 percent less than the Porter County goal.
Even though the number of volunteers is up in Lake County, kettles are going unmanned, and a shortage of bell ringers continues to be an issue.
There is still time to help.
Drop a donation in a red kettle.
Better yet, volunteer to be a bell ringer. Those wanting to volunteer to ring bells can sign up at registertoring.com. The website will ask for a preferred location and includes Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties. It also provides available shifts. After reserving a shift, volunteers will be contacted by their local Salvation Army.
Volunteers also can call Lake County at 219-838-9380, Porter County at 219-762-9191 or LaPorte County at 219-326-5342.
Try it just once, Salvation Army spokesmen urge.