The holiday shopping season also means red kettle season and the familiar ring of a little bell near that kettle.

For nearly two weeks, the Salvation Army has had bell ringers outside busy stores – about 40 ringers at 35 locations across Eastern Jackson County to help bring in donations that fortify its major programs. They hope to bring in $211,000 in loose change and bills, which Mayor Brian Burkett said would represent at least 10 percent of the Independence site's budget.

At Salvation Army's Independence site, 14700 E. Truman Road, it operates the only family homeless shelter in the area – 62 beds, with a stay limit of up to 90 days – and offers food pantry assistance. For Christmas, it will distribute food baskets to 650 families, as well as toys for children. Much of the Salvation Army’s budget comes in grants, Burkett said, so the cash donations are crucial for day-to-day programs.

“This campaign really allows us to do things the entire year,” Burkett said. “It really is the dollars to help us continue to make a difference in people's lives.”

“All that money stays here in Eastern Jackson County.”

With Thanksgiving this year falling as late as it possibly can on the calendar, the red kettle season is a bit shorter, as Burkett said some retailers preferred the Salvation Army wait until the day after Thanksgiving to send out ringers. Hence, the local site is about $30,000 behind pace for its goal this year.

“We started about a week late, so we're trying to make up for it and get the word out,” Burkett said.

Salvation Army workers ring the bells during the week and Independence firefighters are helping out at some sites this week, as they do annually), and volunteers handle the bells on Saturdays.

Burkett said people can still sign up to volunteer at, for two hours or as much as a whole day. It's about as easy a gig as one can get, he says.

“We have great groups, companies and organizations, that do a great job and make a huge difference for us,” Burkett said. “You stand there, smile and ring a bell.”



International Association of Fire Fighters Local 781, the Independence firefighters, will have its “Stop, Drop and Shop” event during Saturday's Salvation Army bell ring at Wal-Mart off Bolger Road. It's the firefighters' version of “Shop With a Cop,” and firefighters will be paired with 45 young students from the Independence School District, who will each have a $100 shopping spree.