Bells will be ringing on sidewalks beginning Friday as the Salvation Army brings its largest fundraiser back to Bryan and College Station, just in time for the Christmas season.
The nonprofit organization, which helped provide basic needs to more than 30 million people across the nation in 2011, is kicking off its annual fundraiser once again, in hopes that even more needs will be met in the coming year, said Philip Burn, divisional communications director.
"The Christmas red kettle helps provide services year-round," Burn said. "Those services include our food pantry, emergency shelter, clothes closet and utility and rent assistance."
Last year in Bryan-College Station, $117,000 was raised through the red kettle fundraiser. This year the Salvation Army is aiming to raise $150,000, said local director Lt. Jeremy Walker.
Walker said getting more volunteers to ring the bells and bring in the change to the red kettles will be an essential part of accomplishing the goal.
Walker said that in 2011, 80 percent of the red kettle attendants were paid and 20 percent were volunteers.
"We're hoping to flip those numbers this year," he said.
The organization set up red kettles Friday and Saturday at Post Oak Mall for its grand reopening, but the fundraiser will officially kick off on Friday and continue through Dec. 24.
Those interested in volunteering can call the local office at 204-6781 or email ginger_cavender @uss.salvationarmy.org.
Burns said the 80 percent who were paid to attend the kettles last year were a part of the organization's employment assistance program.
"It's sort of a rehabilitation for them," Burns said. "But again, of course, the goal is to get as many volunteers as possible."
Walker said that if sports teams, businesses or other organizations volunteer for at least a three-day period, they can enter a "ring off" with the other groups involved. The Salvation Army will keep track of how much money each group was able to raise, and the winners will receive a trophy.
The nonprofit is also bringing back Angel Trees, which offer holiday shoppers a chance to provide a needy child or senior with a gift.
Interested individuals can choose to "adopt" an "angel" from the tree, purchase a gift that was listed and return it to the tree, unwrapped, to be given to the family or the individual by Christmas time.
"For a lot of folks, this is the only Christmas they'll have," Walker said. "Without a community behind them, a lot of folks will go without, and we don't want to see that."
Walker said 186 of the 690 angels on the trees throughout town were not adopted last season. This year, Walker said, the Salvation Army is expecting about 700 angels.