CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — For over 125 years, the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign has provided food, shelter and social services to Americans in need this year, and this year’s campaign is well underway in central West Virginia.
“It’s wide open for us. It’s pretty much 24/7, but it’s all good,” said Cpt. John Sikes of the Salvation Army of Clarksburg. “It’s our time of the year when we’re out in the community and people see us. We’re just glad to be able to do what we do with our volunteers and the help that we have to get out into the community because this will affect what we’re able to do in 2018.”
Sikes estimates the Red Kettle Campaign to provide 80 to 85 percent of the Salvation Army’s annual budget.
“We actually figure out budget for the next year off of our last year kettle, so if we don’t meet that goal this year, we have to go back after the first of the year and refigure our budget,” he said. “That is what supports our assistance to people as far as either rent or mortage, utility assistance or purchasing food to put in our pantry.”
Though based out of Clarksburg, the local Salvation Army supports a five county coverage area, including Harrison, Upshur, Lewis, Doddridge, Braxton and Gilmer counties.
“We actually have a unit that is in Buckhannon that operates every day,” Sikes said. “We actually go all the way to Gassaway for our Angel Tree gifts. We have an Angel Tree program there and a volunteer that coordinates that, and also in Weston we have volunteers that coordinate an Angel Tree program, so we’re pretty wide spread.”
Started in 1979, the Angel Tree provides Christmas presents for nearly 1 million children nationwide, ranging from clothing to toys and for infants to age 18.
“My wife usually heads that up, and she’s been blessed with some great help this year,” Sikes said. “We’re looking at a little over 800 kids this year, and they’re already busy at work like little elves. It’s all coming together, and we’re so thankful for those folks who have stepped up.”
As a non-profit organization, the Salvation Army relies solely on donations and volunteers to provide all that they do for the community.
“If it was not for our volunteers and for our donors who support the Salvation Army, we would have to shut our doors,” Sikes said. “It’s all based on those who step up and help us out. We just are so thankful.”
Sikes said various church groups and community organizations often turn out to help man the kettles during the Christmas season.
“They’ll do it in pairs for a couple hours, and then the next group will come to relieve them,” he said. “It’s so much fun when you have someone else standing there with you, you get to have a conversation and talk to the people as they come back. I truly believe if you ever do it, you’ll do it again.”
Anyone, regardless of age or ability, is able to volunteer their time. Sikes said even those who cannot stand to man the kettles are a great help inside the office.
“As you can imagine, this time of the year, our phones ring off the hook, so people can come and man phones or help us out in the office now through the end of the season,” he said. “Once the Angel Tree gifts start coming in, they can help us get those out.”
While this is the busiest time of year for the Salvation Army, volunteers are a year-round need.
“When Christmas Day hits, we get a week off that we can have some down time. That’s good for us, but when January comes, we’re right back at it,” Sikes said. “I know we’re seen mostly during this time of the year, but there’s something going on here throughout the year and we can always use volunteers.”