OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - The Salvation Army is hoping to raise $1 million this season to help needy families in South Mississippi. A third of that money is expected to be dropped into red kettles across the coast.
Salvation Army officials day donations given at Christmas time make a difference all year long.
The Ocean Springs High School choir entertained the crowd Friday with Christmas songs to start the Salvation Army's Kettle Drive. Some students said it wasn't until this special performance that they realized just how much the organization does for the community.
"You go to Walmart and you see them ringing the bell and you put money in for them," said sophomore Tess Gutherz. "But I wasn't aware of how many families they really help."
The Salvation Army knows it's going to be a challenge to meet its fundraising needs this year. Families in Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Stone, George and Pearl River counties have asked the charity to provide 5,000 children with gifts on Christmas morning.
Major Alan Hill of the Salvation Army said, "I think we're at least 25 percent over last year, so it's a big increase for us. We're really looking at how our resources are going to be spread to meet that need."
"We've already received over 2,000 applications and we haven't had the dollars to do that," said Major Hill. "So now you're starting to say, 'Lord, when are you going to provide that?' And we just trust Him."
The Salvation Army is trusting the community to fill the kettles with enough money to continue making a difference when the holidays are over.
"Family comes in and needs food. We have three food pantries that operate year round. We're talking pallets of food. We keep those restocked. Pay utility bills for families," said Major Hill.
The Salvation Army is looking to raise $300,000 from the kettle drive with the rest of the $1 million coming from corporate and private donations.
If you would like to volunteer as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army call (228) 374-8301.