These days, many know of the Salvation Army from its ubiquitous red kettles that collect coins and bills for the poor. Yet the work of this social services organization that seeks to feed, clothe, comfort, and care can be traced back to 1865. That’s when Methodist minister William Booth first began this evangelical and social movement in East London, England. Booth and his wife, Catherine, shared the Gospel and helped to re-mold their community, which was suffering from poverty and desolation. The couple’s work and actions were so effective that they influenced the world. The Salvation Army spread to the United States, Canada, Australia, Asia, Africa, and India and is now active in almost every corner of the world.
As for those red kettles, they were actually inspired by Simpson’s Pot, an iron kettle that collected coins to help the poor near a harbor in Liverpool, England. Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee was in San Francisco in 1891 when he remembered that pot and decided the same concept might help hungry residents there. He placed a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing at the end of Market Street in San Francisco. Next to it, he placed a sign that read, “Keep the Pot Boiling.” That year, McFee was able to raise enough money to provide a Christmas meal for all those in need in San Francisco.
Over the next six years, the kettle idea spread from the west coast to the Boston area and helped to pay for 150,000 Christmas dinners nationwide. Now, the movement is even more effective. More than 4.5 million individuals in the United States benefit from Salvation Army meals during the holiday season. Today in Evansville, the funds provide assistance throughout the year. There are 12 counter kettles and 28 bell-ringing stations that contain kettles in Evansville.
“The kettle campaign is not about Christmas gifts,” says Sandra Appler, director of development for the Salvation Army. “It is about financing to maintain the daily operations of the soup kitchen, emergency food pantry, and other projects The Salvation Army provides throughout the year.”