The season of giving officially began as red kettles jingled in front of Walmart on Friday morning.

The sounds of coins jingling and bells ringing signaled the start of the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign, and this year the nonprofit organization is making it easier to donate.

Community members can drop in coins, dollars or checks in the kettles, or they can make a digital contribution this year through a new feature the Salvation Army is offering, committee chair Jennifer Ehlers said.

“We have the pay with a card option. It is very simple, just scan the code and make a donation,” she said. “We did it, and it took about a minute or less. The money will go to whatever zip code is affiliated with the method of payment. Hopefully, a lot of it will come to Seguin, but we know that if there are students or visitors donating, it is going to some Salvation Army somewhere. We’re very excited about that this year.”

Each year, the nonprofit organization hosts its most significant fundraising effort that begins the day after Thanksgiving and ends on Christmas Eve.

And this year, with five fewer days in between, the Kettle Campaign members from the Seguin Unit are hopeful they can match their efforts from last year.

“We are trying to raise at least as much money as we did last year, which was $45,000,” Ehlers said. “That ends up being about half the money that the Seguin Unit is able to use.”

From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, volunteers from local organizations, businesses, student groups, churches and individuals will stand at the kettles, ringing the bell in hopes of raising donations.

The group also will set up at Walgreens a couple of times this season.

“We are doing the ringing totally with volunteers,” Ehlers said. “It is a unique thing. We have the same groups that do it every year — churches, organizations, civic groups, student groups, individuals, just a variety of folks — and we have some new ones. We rely on them; we couldn’t do it without them.”

They are always looking for more volunteers, committee member Liz Hillsdorf said.

The money that is raised from the Kettle Campaign and the donations received throughout the year from various other organizations, businesses and groups, like the United Way, are used to help community members who find themselves in need of financial assistance, Ehlers said.

“We serve a lot of emergency type situations,” she said. “Last year, we averaged serving about 150 people a month. That is about 100 adults and 50 kids per month.”

Some examples include helping a family put food on the table, paying rent for the month or keeping the lights on, committee member Kyle Kraft said.

“We have people who will come in and need help with food, so they get a voucher to H-E-B or Walmart to get some food,” he said. “They get a voucher to help with rent, to help with paying electric bills, so they don’t have their heat shut off. There are just other emergencies or disasters that come up.”

The local unit has helped in various disaster situations, Kraft said.

“We helped pay for some hotel bills for people who were staying here following the hurricane,” he said. “There was a fire at an apartment complex a couple of years ago, and we helped find and pay for some housing for the people who were homeless all of a sudden due to the fire. There are other emergencies here and there where we help people.”

A more recent example, Ehlers said, was a single mother of four whose electricity was able to get shut off.

“The mother was just frantic and in tears, and we were able to take care of that,” she said.

While they can help, Kraft said there are limitations.

“We just try to allocate the funds as best we can,” he said. “If someone comes to us in need of help, we can’t necessarily help pay the whole bill, but we can at least help them. We do have to try and portion it out; otherwise, we could run out of money six months from now.”

The Salvation Army Seguin Unit is open in the mornings and afternoons on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and can serve community members by appointment.

For more information about the Kettle Campaign, how to donate, to volunteer or if you in need of assistance, call 830-401-4872.

Felicia Frazar is the managing editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail her at felicia.frazar@seguingazette.com .

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