By Jeff Fox

The holiday season red kettles are already out, and the Salvation Army, which runs Eastern Jackson County’s only homeless shelter, is depending heavily on plenty of giving this year.

“Eastern Jack has always been good to us and has always seemed to come through for us,” said Major Butch Frost.

Last week, the group held a luncheon event that raised $15,000.

“It was great,” Frost said. “It was our first-ever kettle kickoff.”

The Salvation Army has 18 or 19 kettles out now in front of various stores, and there will be around 30 shortly after Thanksgiving. The goal is to raise $285,000 toward the organization’s annual budget of $1.6 million.

Volunteers are needed and welcome, Frost said. At times when a volunteer is unavailable to stand at a kettle and ring a bell, the Salvation Army has to pay someone to do that.

The Crossroads Shelter at 14700 E. Truman Road in Independence is always full, with 45 to 50 people staying each night, Frost said. About 200 families a month are turned away.

“It’s just really a tough time,” Frost said. “People are working at minimum-wage jobs just to make ends meet.”

Those staying at the shelter have to work on addressing underlying issues such as looking for work or paying off old bills so it’s easier to find a new home.

“We are holding residents more accountable,” Frost said. “They have to be looking for work. They have to be looking for better housing.”

The Salvation Army also has a food shelf at Crossroads.

“We’re trying really hard to keep the shelves full, but it’s pretty bare right now,” Frost said.

There are several ways to help:

• The Missouri Mavericks are having Salvation Army Night on Nov. 30. The kettles will be out front, and the chuck-a-puck event will benefit Crossroads.

• Wal-Mart on Nov. 29 will put out cardboard trucks for donations of toys.

• Several businesses are putting up “angel trees,” that is, Christmas trees adorned with slips of paper listing certain needs.

• The Salvation Army has an adopt-a-family program, too.

• Bell ringers. Frost suggest church groups or the employees of a company could sign up together. Call 816-252-3200, and ask for Ken.