Many of us have Christmas memories associated with putting money in a red kettle as someone in a Santa hat stands by, ringing a bell. The iconic image of the “bell ringer” harkens us back to the feelings we get when we watch a Frank Capra movie, snuggled up by the fire. The Holidays represent the season of giving and no Christmas charity experience is complete without the ringing of that bell. We may not know directly where the money we put in the kettle goes, but our parent or Grandparent told us that The Salvation Army is trustworthy because they help “others.”
So what does helping others look like? How does this Christmas tradition translate into the community of Chico this year? We may appreciate the sentiment that comes with tradition, and of course we want to trust our grandparents; however, we may find ourselves asking, “Why has the red kettle stood the test of time? Where does my kettle dollar go and who are these others?” (These are definite questions we should all pay attention to when donating). The others in the Chico community look different from a Capra film. They could be your co-worker, neighbor, the child in your kid’s classroom, the person you saw at the grocery store, or maybe… even you.
When it comes to trusting an organization, traditions hold a lot of value. Since 1888, The Salvation Army has been serving the community of Chico in an effort to bring dignity and hope to those who feel unseen. Its mission and purpose in Chico has never wavered from serving others in need. In follow up to that, 10 years ago, it opened the doors of the George Walker Adult Rehabilitation Program (a 6-month 50+ bed addiction recovery program for men & women). If you have ever donated to The Salvation Army Thrift Stores, you have directly supported and impacted lives in its rehabilitation program. All donated items and proceeds from The Salvation Army Thrift Stores go to fund the Rehabilitation program. The program is also work therapy based and provides job readiness skills for beneficiaries. Their goal is to not let an individual’s socio-economic status dictate their access to recovery. In addition to keeping their promise to serve others, 2014 marked the opening of their Transitional Living Program for graduates of their rehabilitation program who are reuniting with their children. Believe it or not, this is actually only part of what The Salvation Army in Chico does and provides for the community.
Now that you know the well known side of their services in Chico, the heart of where your red kettle donations go, is actually poured into families and individuals struggling to make ends meet. Here lies an often forgotten struggling population, that does not feed into the stereotypes of those needing help. These are “the others” for which The Salvation Army of Chico also advocates. On a daily basis, The Salvation Army Family Service Office serves low-income working individuals and families that struggle from paycheck to paycheck (50% are senior citizens struggling with medical bills, rent, and taking care of their grandchildren. 50% are families trying to keep food on the table and making sure their children do not go hungry). The Family Service Office serves over 1,700 local families annually, with homeless prevention services, such as Emergency Rental Assistance, food boxes and weekly fresh produce, PG&E assistance, clothing vouchers, hygiene accessories, various children scholarships to summer camps, education and enrichment opportunities and holiday assistance… to name a few. Guests that come through their doors have the opportunity to meet one on one with a Family Service Assistant, talk through their needs, and apply for the proper assistance. The Salvation Army proudly partners and refers to other local agencies/non-profits in the community in order to best serve their guests.
As you can see, the Christmas tradition of ringing bells by a red kettle means so much more than money and tradition itself. It is truly about transforming lives and helping others in need.
So how can you be a part of this and make this holiday season even more meaningful? In an effort to continue tradition and meet the needs of others, The Salvation Army is gearing up for the 2nd Annual Santa Shuffle 5 K: A Run for Others in Need. This event has become the newest iteration of the traditional Bell Ringer. With pride in their history, The Salvation Army of Chico is exploring new and innovative ways of making their timeless message of helping “others” relevant in an ever-changing world. Join them on Saturday, December 9 at 8:30 a.m., at Lower Bidwell Park for the 2nd Annual Santa Shuffle 5K & 1-Mile Fun Run/Walk (It is $35 to register until midnight on November 31st). Each runner will receive: a long sleeve tee shirt, a Santa hat, a participation medal, and a timed run for those who register for the 5K. The first 100 runners to sign up will get a FREE 11’ inch pizza form MOD Pizza, and the first 500 runners will receive a FREE Dutch Bros drink card (That means the first 100 get both!!!!). Awards will be given to the top three in age brackets, as well as an overall male and female runner. By registering and participating in this run, you get to start your own Christmas tradition and help “OTHERS” this season.