Salvation Army volunteers started ringing those familiar bells Friday, kicking off the 128-year-old fundraiser that provides nearly a quarter of the organization’s support.
The Red Kettle Campaign, which has been part of the Christmas season since 1891, continues from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily through Dec. 24.
Bell-ringers will be stationed by red kettles at 29 retail locations, and another 57 countertop mini-kettles will be placed throughout Champaign County.
The goal this season is to raise $195,000.
The campaign will get a boost at a “Good Works Day” promotion at the Nov. 30 Illinois-Northwestern game, where Illini athletes and Salvation Army leaders and volunteers will ring bells near gates on the east and west sides of the stadium before the game.
Donors this year will also be able to use Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay to donate.
Red Kettle donations go to services in Champaign County for veterans, the elderly, children and families or individuals struggling with job, food or housing insecurity.
Besides a food pantry and other year-round programs, the Salvation Army runs a winter-coat distribution, food for seniors and a Christmas Toy Shop that gives away thousands of toys in conjunction with the Carle Toy Drive, Toys for Tots and other community supporters.
Bell ringers are still needed; volunteers can sign up online at registertoring.com.
The campaign represents one of the world’s largest volunteer efforts, said Maj. Randall Summit, who leads the local Salvation Army with his wife, Maj. Sue Summit.
“This community has blessed the Salvation Army with support for 128 years with their donations and volunteer efforts, and we have provided 130 years of service to those in our community who have need of a hand up,” he said.