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You’ve definitely seen them before—Salvation Army volunteers standing outside local shops ringing bells and taking donations in bright red kettles.

Captain Debbie Davis has a little history:

“They actually started in the late 1800s or early 1900s in San Francisco. Two Salvation Army ladies brought a big black kettle, because that’s what they had at the time. They set it up on the pier and they started collecting donations. From then, the program has grown throughout the entire United States. It’s our primary fundraiser,” says Captain Debbie.

It’s still the most recognizable Salvation Army tradition across the country.

And Captain Ron Davis says, the change they collect will go right back to this community.

“That’s one of the things I want to emphasize. The funds we raise are used here in Wrangell. So it’s not like they’re going off overseas or anything. We try to go out twice a day—in the afternoon and in the evening, Monday through Saturday. We’re out there ringing the bells and we sure appreciate any help we can get,” says Captain Ron.

Captains Ron and Debbie Davis – Photo by Shady Grove Oliver/KSTK

Davis says the money goes toward things like their holiday food boxes.

Those boxes have all types of holiday foods that a family may have trouble buying on their own.

Davis says the Salvation Army is looking for monetary donations to help purchase food box items.

“We are always looking for donations. We have a food bank. [Last year] we did close to 80 food boxes for different families. Anything that has to do with the holidays—turkeys, mashed potatoes, gravies, stuffing mixes, vegetables—is useful around this time of the year. The other times of year—peanut butter, tuna, pasta—anything that people can come up with that can sit on the shelf and help somebody make a meal when then need it,” says Captain Ron.

Captain Debbie Davis says from now until December 2nd, they will be contacting families who have received boxes in the past to see if they still need them this year.

She says it’s the same system for another Salvation Army tradition—the Angel Tree.

“Our Angel Tree are toys that are donated by the community. What will happen is we will have tags, boys and girls. We won’t have names on them but we will have ages and toy wishes. We place these at different businesses around town. You take a tag, you buy the toy requested or whatever you feel you can afford, and then you bring it back to that location where you got the tag.

You don’t wrap the gifts though, because we like to have the parents have the joy of wrapping the gifts. So you return the unwrapped toy to that location and I will be picking them up periodically,” says Captain Debbie.

She says if there is any family who has not had a tag for their child but would like to, they should get in touch with her.

Both the Christmas food boxes and the Angel Tree gifts will be distributed on December 20th.

But, Captain Debbie says there is a long-term project she’d like to see completed soon, too.

“In our food pantry right now, most of it is bookcases. Although that has helped us a lot in the past, I really would like to get new shelving where we could put up the food and better organize it. The shelving itself is going to cost $500. So I’d like to try to do some fundraising to get money to help purchase new shelving for our food pantry,” says Captain Debbie.

Captain Ron says all of these holiday events are ways for the community to give back. And he says, he’s always looking for volunteers to help with the kettles.

“It’s a way for the community to come and support each other. Last year we had a bunch of teenagers that came in and rang for us during the year and they had a lot of fun. And I’d really like to put that challenge out there for people who want to come in and give a little back to the community to stand for an hour and ring the bells. You’ll be surprised the people you’ll meet. Even though you might have lived in this town for 30 years, you’ll still meet people and it’s fun,” says Captain Ron.

He says they’ll bring out the Christmas kettles beginning December 2nd.

For more information, call Captain Debbie Davis at 470-1701.

Donations for the holiday boxes or food pantry can be dropped off at the Salvation Army Church at 611 Zimovia Highway.