Salvation Army allows people to create virtual red kettles - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Salvation Army allows people to create virtual red kettles

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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

You can now turn your computer into a Salvation Army kettle. The Red Kettle Campaign starts November 19. This year people can either collect donations the traditional way by becoming bell ringers, or they can raise money by creating a virtual kettle online.

The sound of a Salvation Army bell is a holiday tradition that goes back to the 1800s. The money dropped into the red kettles helps the less fortunate all year round.

Joe Lewis Ervin oversees the Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign for the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

"Times are hard right now and a lot of people are suffering," Ervin said. "We've got a lot of homeless in this area. We provide shower services for the homeless. We provide utility payments for people in need."

For people unable to volunteer as bell ringers,but who still want to help the Salvation Army raise money,  there is now the online Red Kettle campaign.

Major Sharon Ray said, "The virtual kettle is really kind of a neat program especially if you have a lot of social networking and you just want to get a challenge out. Whether it's between a department in an office or a group of friends that hang out on a regular basis, you can challenge each other and that's a great way to do that."

People can get creative with their red kettle pages.

"You can customize it with a special story about how important the Salvation Army is to you or why you feel it's important for people to donate to the Salvation Army,"said Meghan Webster of the Salvation Army.

Salvation Army officials said the kettle drive has evolved since its inception back in 1891 and will continue to do so as needed.

"It started out by community feeding pots," said Major Ray. "People would put food into it. People didn't always have a lot of food to put in so they started adding money to that. One of the things that the Salvation Army strives to do is make sure we're in the forefront of what's going on in society and we're able to meet the needs in any way possible. "

The goal for the Red Kettle Campaign for 2012 is $325,000.

The Salvation Army will have a kick-off celebration for the Red Kettle Campaign and its Angel Tree program at 10 a.m., Saturday November 17 at Biloxi city hall. The Salvation Army received Angel Tree requests to provide Christmas gifts for 2,591 children from the six southernmost counties.

Officials said they decided to distribute toys from two warehouse sites instead of one this year with one in Harrison County and one in Jackson County.

"Last year we tried to bring everybody in from all of the Mississippi Gulf Coast into one centralized location," said Major Sharon Ray. "Trying to find a location large enough that allows us to do the type of distribution we want to with the box system takes a lot of space. We weren't able to find one location that was suited to do that. What we decided to do this year is go back to what we did in traditional times where Jackson County would go to Jackson County and all the other counties would come here to Harrison County."

Angel Tree toys will be distributed December 17 -19.

Copyright 2012 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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