Well, it's official. Those smiling, bell-ringing soldiers of comfort and joy - a.k.a. The Salvation Army - kicked off their Kettle Campaign for the 2020 Christmas Season.
Corps Administrator Sergeant Les Ashby said, that as of Wednesday, Nov. 11, the SA's Annual Christmas Campaign 2020 started at noon at Shelby's Hobby Lobby, with folks immediately stopping by the bright red kettle to drop in their cash for those less fortunate this year than themselves.
Ashby, 63, and his wife, Sgt. Mary Ashby, met in Orlando, FL, he said, and have four children. Sgt. Les said he has been with the SA for 45 years. Their office is located at 305 N. Lafayette St. in Shelby, and, as their card states, they and their staff of 15 employees "...serve Cleveland and Rutherford Counties."
The well-established evangelical Christian organization (they were founded in 1865 by William Booth) has partnered with Hobby Lobby and Walmart for their 'Rescue Christmas' National Campaign, noted Sgt. Ashby, as he and his wife were sitting up the tent for the kick-off event. With the Ashby's at the Red Kettle Kickoff was Hobby Lobby manager Robert Henderson, and co-manager Joshua Mauldin, as well as Assistant Managers Lindsay Howard and Megan Curtis. Henderson, a Cleveland County native, said Shelby's Hobby Lobby has been open for four years, adding that he has been with the company for 14 years.
Said Mr. Henderson, who has worked at the Charlotte and Gastonia stores, "Hobby Lobby has been doing kettle drives the entire time I have been with the company. Our company gives a percentage of its profits to the Salvation Army."
Others present at the Wednesday event were SA Advisory Board chairperson Faye Hassell and Board member Anita Sprinkle Roberts, and bell ringer Bridgitte Adams, who has been an SA Corps soldier for three years.
After playing an opening tune on his trumpet, Sgt. Les Ashby welcomed everyone for coming by.
"Thank you to all those who came by today," he began. "We have been here a couple of days. The reason we're here a bit early is because that with what COVID-19 has done to giving in general, it is so important to us to raise our funds for this upcoming holiday season.
"We have a goal of raising $110,000; $55,000 for Cleveland County, and $55,000 for Rutherford County." Sgt. Ashby mentioned the Belk's Toy Drive and the Walmart online registry of toys, which can be found at Walmart Angel Tree.com.
Sgt. Mary Ashby, who is Assistant Corps Administrator with her husband, Les, said currently they have 400 Angels in Shelby, or roughly 150 families, and over 300 in Rutherford County.
"It is very hard on many of these families this year because of COVID-19," she said. "We try and do what we can."
Some of the way Sgt. Mary said folks could donate is to go to the Red Kettle.org web site or to SalvationArmyCarolinas. org/Shelby/home and donate, or you can donate by mail by sending in a monetary donation to their bricks and mortar address noted earlier in the article.
Another way to help, she said, is to volunteer to man one of the red kettles for them. "We are in need of volunteer bell ringers," she noted.
"Also, you can call my cell phone at (704) 692-8515, or call our office at (704) 482- 0375. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. org, or at the email given earlierat salvationarmycarolinas.org/ Shelby/home," she said.
For bell ringer and SA soldier Bridgitte Adams, serving the Lord as an SA bell ringer is her mission and calling.
Said Ms. Adams, "I love being out here and greeting people. I have been with the Salvation Army now for three years. I love my pastors (the Ashby's), and I truly love helping people. This year, we're putting all of this COVID-19 stuff in God's hands. He knows what people need.