By Charles Petty

Photo by Charles Petty

In keeping with tradition on the day before Thanksgiving, the Sanford community and the local chapter of the Salvation Army gathered Wednesday in front of Lowe’s Foods on Spring Lane to kick off the holiday kettle ringing. This year’s kick-off comes on the heels of over a year of Coronvirus pandemic woes and the needs that have come with that uncertainty. Unlike last year’s kick-off however, there was no declaration given for a mask mandate.

On the cold morning, a group of around 15 gathered in the front of the supermarket with officials from the city and the Salvation Army present. Various members included Mayor Chet Mann who was volunteering to ring the bell on the opening day in front of Lowe’s. Also present were Tracy Staley, executive director for the Lee County Salvation Army, and Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter, who was there in his capacity as sheriff for the last of 15 years running. Staley thanked those gathered for their participation in the kick-off and put into context the help that Salvation Army gives the county.

“For 2020, we helped 3,800 families who were food insecure,” he said. “We give out food Monday through Thursday at the Mann Center. We have helped 70 families with rent and 160 families with utilities. We distrusted almost 5000 articles of clothing from our family store. We have also helped 100 children with school supplies.”

The numbers given by Staley indicate the direct impact of giving money to the Salvation Army and how the Red Kettle drive provides direct aid to community members who need it most. The Red Kettle drive goes from the day before Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve, with volunteers working part-time shifts, hopeful shoppers will drop money into the kettle. Other various locations in the county include Piggly Wiggly stores, Food Lion stores, and Walmart.

Bob Finch, a member of the Lee County NAACP chapter who has been working alongside the Salvation Army for nearly 20 years, remarked how the kettle drive impacted his life in his youth.

“It is one of the greatest joys of my life,” he said. “My family actually benefited from the Salvation Army services when I was a child. And ever since, whenever I have the opportunity to, I do what I can to help.”

The kick-off was festive with Christmas music provided by a trumpeter and flute musicians.

Mann reminded the group gathered for the kick-off the significance of the work the kettle drive volunteers do.

“Community is defined by people like you,” he said. “The volunteers make a world of difference in our community.”