Why Does The Salvation Army Collect Donations in Red Kettles at Christmas?

Dec 10, 2020

The Salvation Army is known for our iconic Red Kettles at Christmas, usually flanked by a person ringing a bell and wishing passers-by “Merry Christmas!” But few know the origins of this fundraising tradition that started over 100 years ago on the West Coast.

In December of 1891, Captain Joseph McFee, a Salvation Army captain in San Francisco, was saddened by the number of people in his city going hungry. He decided to provide a free Christmas dinner for the area’s impoverished people. But, how would he pay for all that food?

He lay awake nights, worrying, thinking, praying about how he could find the money to fulfill his commitment. One day he thought back to his time as a sailor in Liverpool, England. He remembered how at Stage Landing, where the boats came in, there was a large iron kettle called "Simpson's Pot" into which passers-by tossed a coin or two to help the poor.

The next day, Captain McFee placed a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing at the foot of Market Street. Beside the kettle, he placed a sign that read, "Keep the Pot Boiling." Soon, the donations collected in that kettle provided the funds he needed to see that people in his city were properly fed at Christmas.

Six years later, the kettle idea spread from the west coast to the Boston area. That year, the combined effort nationwide resulted in 150,000 Christmas dinners for the needy.

Kettles are now used in such far-away places as Korea, Japan, Chile, and many European countries. Everywhere, public contributions to Salvation Army kettles help the organization continue our year-round efforts to help those who would otherwise go without.

In the Metropolitan Division, 83 cents of each dollar put in a Red Kettle goes directly to programming, helping to provide a meal, a night of shelter, or some other needed glimmer of hope. In this year of skyrocketing needs, those donations are especially important.

When you sign up to be a bell ringer, you become part of this time-honored tradition. Thanks to volunteers ringing bells at our Red Kettles, we will raise money to keep Doing the Most Good in the coming year, no matter what 2021 brings us.


Rescue Christmas for Our Neighbors in Need

Help Rescue Christmas     Fundraise for Good

Ring a Bell     Volunteer     Make the Holiday Bright for a Child

For tax purposes: The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division EIN is 36-2167910.


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