Every little bit in the kettle helps this time of year
Aimee Lambert, a volunteer from Manchester, rings the bell for the annual Salvation Army kettle drive, as Bertha Twombly, from Manchester donates in the kettle at Market Basket on Elm Street in Manchester on Saturday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
BEDFORD -- If you didn't think the dollar or two the Jacob Lademans and Keith Pokornys of the world stuff into Salvation Army kettles every Christmas could add up to much, you'd be mistaken.
Try $1.22 million last holiday season in New Hampshire alone.
More than 1,000 volunteers will have fanned out to about 150 locations across the state by Christmas Eve, reminding people with their ringing gold bells that some of their neighbors need a helping hand.
"We all have a desire to give back to the community," said Mike Swinford, who manned a red kettle outside the Harvest Market with his wife, Rachel, on Friday. "We've all benefited from the good things other folks have done."
The Swinfords saw Lademan, a college student home for the holidays, and Pokorny, with his hands filled with grocery bags, drop in donations on their way out of the market.
"There's a lot of people in need, and the holidays remind us of that," Pokorny said.
In addition to volunteers, the Salvation Army also pays more than 200 staff members minimum wage or a smidge more to ring the bells across New Hampshire.
"If we can't cover the time slots with volunteers, we end up getting paid staff," said Pat James, public relations manager for the Northern New England division of the Salvation Army in Portland, Maine. "It does help people during the holidays who don't have employment."
The Salvation Army last year helped nearly 63,000 people, from children to senior citizens, she said. The need for assistance has risen about 20 percent since last year, according to Andy Barnes, development director for the Salvation Army's Manchester Corps.
On Wednesday, donors outside Harvest Market gave more than $600 in cash. The market location is the first, at least in the Manchester-Bedford area, to begin accepting donations by credit card, Barnes said. Volunteers there are using an iPhone with a pay-anywhere app and a card reader, providing passers-by with one more way to give.
"I think there's more gratification when people put their money right in the kettle," Barnes said.
Alan Heacock, chairman of the Manchester Corps' advisory board, said four people gave by credit card on the first day, Wednesday, offering $5 and $10 donations. Last year, that location raised about $12,000, he said.
Overall last Christmas season, the Manchester-Bedford area raised $131,000 from kettle donations. Barnes said this year's goal is to pull in $150,000. He said his area employs about 35 workers and has more than 100 volunteers to ring bells at 18 locations, three more than last year.
The upper level of Macy's at the Mall of New Hampshire is the top fundraising spot in the area, he said.
Barnes said hundred-dollar bills will pop up a few times a season.
Swinford, who teaches college part time, is manning the kettle for an eighth straight year, sharing a schedule with fellow Bedford Rotarians.
Dressing properly comes with the job. "Layers, long underwear, sweatshirts, jacket," a hat and gloves, he said.
He already has noticed a few trends during his tenure.
"A lot of people make it a point to say how many years they've been giving," Swinford said. "A lot of times, kids will drag their parents over to the kettle."
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Michael Cousineau may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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