Christmas comes early at Salvation Army Red KettleA woman drove up to the curb with a smile on her face, bade a “Merry Christmas” and produced a stack of bills for the kettle.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Paul Carpenter arrived several minutes early for his 9 a.m. shift at the Salvation Army Red Kettle at Wal-Mart last Tuesday. And since he had an 11 a.m. appointment at the car dealership where he works, he was tempted to leave a little early.
“I got to thinking about it, though,” he related, “and I decided since I signed up to ring the bell from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m., I’d better stay the whole time.”
At about 10:58 a.m., a woman drove up to the curb with a smile on her face, bade him a “Merry Christmas” and produced a stack of bills for the kettle. When the Salvation Army collected the money and counted it later, Captain Ruth Gibbons said the woman’s donation turned out to be five crisp, brand-new $100 bills.
“It was very exciting for all of us,” said Gibbons. “This puts us all that much closer to our goal. People are facing hard times all the way around, and it’s nice to know that someone would do this out of the goodness of their heart.”
Carpenter admitted he realized at the time the woman made the donation that it was something out of the ordinary.
“I think she made a special trip, knowing the kettle was there,” said Carpenter. “Most people fold up a few dollar bills, or sometimes a $5, $10 or occasionally a $20. But I recognize $100s for what they are, and I knew this was a significant gift.
“And yet,” he continued, “I could tell it was not about her. It was a random act of kindness, done in total confidence.”
Carpenter said this sizable donation was one of the highlights of the many years he’s been manning the Salvation Army Red Kettles during the Christmas season. Carpenter rings the familiar bell from the day after Thanksgiving right up until Christmas Eve, putting in four to five shifts a week, depending on the hours he’s slated to work his regular job at Cloquet Ford Chrysler Center. And he said he always requests to be assigned to the Red Kettle outside Wal-Mart, because it’s the only outdoor kettle in the city.
“A lot of people want to avoid it because it gets pretty cold,” said Carpenter, “but I think it’s important to have someone out there. There are a lot of people wanting to give, and if the kettle there was manned every shift, it would go a long way toward enhancing the Salvation Army’s penetration throughout the county.”
Carpenter encouraged others to sign up to ring the bell for the Salvation Army, particularly at the kettle outside Wal-Mart.
“We need some hearty outdoor people to step forward and take a turn at it,” he said. “It would make a huge difference if someone was there all the time.”
Carpenter was back out at Wal-Mart again Tuesday afternoon this week – his second shift of the day at the familiar Red Kettle. The sign on the nearby bank showed the temperature was a measly 19 degrees, with the wind chill making it feel much colder. The earflaps on Carpenter’s hat did little to keep his nose and face from turning a rosy pink, and you could see his breath outlined in the frosty air. But he wore a broad smile on his face and a stiff upper lip, and as shoppers hustled by, many of them stopped to pour pocket change or stuff dollar bills into his kettle as he wished them a Merry Christmas.
“You know,” he reflected, “whenever I start to get cold and it seems as though time is starting to pass slower and slower, I just look over there [pointing at the cross atop the Zion Lutheran Church], and I remind myself what this is all about. I feel good about it every time I’m out here, and I’ve met a lot of really great people.”