By Jo-Anne MacKenzie
---- — DERRY — The bells started ringing yesterday outside stores in Salem, Derry and Londonderry.
And they will continue to ring 12 hours a day, six days a week through Christmas Eve.
The Salvation Army counts on those quick donations to support its charitable work at the holidays and throughout the year. The Red Kettle campaign accounts for more than 50 percent of annual fundraising at the Derry Salvation Army office, according to Lt. Christopher Williams.
The Red Kettle drive made readers’ list of “603 Reasons” New Hampshire is special.
Now, even people who are short of cash can make a donation.
Each kettle has a QR code that can be scanned with a smart phone and a donation made online. In addition, donors can visit onlineredkettle.org/TheSalvationArmyDerryNH to make a donation that will stay in the local area, he said.
There are 20 kettles set up outside grocery and retail stores, with volunteers ringing the bell and extending season’s greetings to all who pass by.
But more help is needed, Williams said.
“I’ll take as many as I can get,” he said of volunteers.
Derry Boy Scout Troop 98 and Cub Scout Pack 98 always volunteer. So, too, do Derry firefighters, Derry School District employees, the Salvation Army’s advisory council and others.
“We’re out there every day, except Sundays and Thanksgiving, until Christmas Eve, basically from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.,” Williams said. “We work around whatever hours volunteers can give. This is over half of our fundraising for the year.”
The organization already has 200 local youngsters on a list, all hoping for a few toys and some new clothes for Christmas, he said. Last year, the Derry Salvation Army brightened the holidays for 290 children, from newborns through high school seniors.
The wishes waiting to be granted aren’t grand, Williams said, no game systems or high-end electronics.
Williams read off a few of the wishes this year: “Pink headphones, Transformers, a basketball, printed duct tape.”
The Salvation Army will have “angel trees” set up in Hannaford’s, the Londonderry 99 Restaurant and at Derry Public Library next week. The trees are decorated with tags bearing children’s holiday wishes.
“We put a couple things on each tag,” Williams said. “People sometimes buy one item or they buy everything. It’s whatever the person wants to do.”
Parents often involve their children, he said, taking them along to shop for the child in need and teaching them life isn’t always just about them.
“I’ve had people tell me that’s what their parents did and, because of that, they’re now transferring it to their children,” he said.
People who don’t want to shop can bring donations of new toys and clothing to the Salvation Army at 18 Folsom Road in Derry.
They also are collecting donations of nonperishable food for holiday dinners — stuffing, canned cranberries, canned or boxed vegetables, canned fruit.
Cash donations are always welcome, Williams said, at the kettles, online or at the office.
Anyone who wants to volunteer to staff a kettle should call (603) 434-7790.