Better off red: Kettle Drive continues

Published 11:14 am Thursday, December 15, 2011

The bell rings continuously at Salvation Army Kettles around town. Here, Timothy Larson rings the bell during a six-hour Kettle Drive shift on Wednesday at Walmart. -- Eric Johnson/

Timothy Larson is used to the sound of the Salvation Army kettle bell. He has worked as a Salvation Army volunteer for several years. Each season, people can see him posted in front of an area store for six to eight hours at time, nearly every day of the drive.

“It just makes me feel really good,” he said. “You see people giving and helping out a little.”

Austin resident Dean Niehuis drops some money in the Salvation Army Kettle Wednesday afternoon at Walmart in Austin.

Larson was in front of Walmart on Wednesday, standing just clear of the drizzle. It didn’t bother him, as last year he recalls was much worse.

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“But I still did it,” he said. “I still feel good about it.”

Austin residents seem to feel good about donating to the Salvation Army this year. The SA campaign was at $27,700 as of Dec. 8, about $8,000 ahead of where it was last year.

“It is incredibly exciting,” said Lt. Amy McMahon of the SA.

As it gets closer to Christmas, people normally start donating more. McMahon said it was very exciting to see so many people donating this year. That money goes back to SA initiatives like the Salvation Army food shelf, along with the Salvation Army store and programs where residents can get help with rent, utilities, prescriptions and more.

Though the donations could help SA make its kettle goal of $42,000, SA workers face increasing demand for services as well, according to McMahon.

“We’re still constantly looking at trying to find a way to meet most people’s needs,” McMahon said.

SA workers will be busy with toy distributions next Monday and Tuesday, along with Christmas basket distributions next Wednesday. Hy-Vee has partnered with the SA once more to deliver Christmas baskets to families in need this year.

That’s a good thing for a community with as much charity as Austin.

“We’re doing pretty well,” McMahon said.