The Salvation Army officially kicks off its 2009 Red Kettle Christmas campaign Thursday during the nationally televised halftime show for the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game against the Oakland Raiders.
The oldest annual charitable fundraiser of its kind in the United States will mark its 118th year when it kicks off at 3:15 p.m. CST and its 13th year of launching at the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game halftime show.
The campaign, which runs through Christmas Eve, raises money for people in need in communities nationwide, providing toys for kids, coats for the homeless, food for the hungry and countless social service programs year-round.
Since it first launched on a nationally televised stage in 1997, the Red Kettle campaign has raised more than $1 billion and has helped the Army to serve 30 million people each year nationwide. Last year, the campaign raised a record $130 million.
"Thanksgiving is a time for great traditions, like watching the Cowboys' game, giving thanks for the blessings in your life and remembering those less fortunate," commented Chris Daughtry of the Grammy-nominated rock band Daughtry, which will perform live during the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day half-time show.
"The Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign," he continued, is "a fantastic charity that has a real impact on peoples' lives."
Adding to that, Major George Hood, National Community Relations and Development Secretary for The Salvation Army, said the continued public support of the Red Kettle campaign is a major reason why The Salvation Army is able to provide families with food, utility assistance, adult rehabilitation from alcohol and drug addiction, disaster relief and other services to more than 5,000 communities nationwide.
The support for the past two years has especially been critical given the state of economy and the growing needs that have come from it. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food insecurity is at an all-time high. In 2008, 17 million households, or 14.6 percent, were food insecure and families had difficulty putting enough food on the table at times during the year. That marks a significant increase from 13 million households the year before.
"The state of the economy has forced an increasing amount of people across the country to seek help from The Salvation Army," commented Hood.
And although churches and charities throughout the country have been trying to step up their responses, a survey by Christian non-profit World Vision revealed that three out of four U.S. adults say the current economic climate has affected their charitable giving.
While ten percent of Americans say they're giving more to charities this year, one in three is giving less.
"The sputtering economy has made it more difficult for hard working Americans to give what's on their hearts," said Lana Reda, World Vision vice president for Donor Engagement.
To encourage more Americans to give this holiday season, The Salvation Army this year has gone beyond its usual task force of more than 25,000 Salvation Army volunteers, who ring bells daily throughout the country, soliciting spare change donations to the iconic red kettles from holiday shoppers.
The organization has made it possible for potential donors to contribute on its website, www.salvationarmyusa.org, or through a virtual red kettle on any number of corporate and individual websites as well as on Facebook pages.
The Salvation Army is also testing kettles that take debit and credit cards in more than 120 cities after first trying them last year in Dallas and Colorado Springs.
In Colorado Springs, fundraising last year went up $64,000 from the year before, an 11 percent increase.
"The Salvation Army has long been known for being a very conservative, old-fashioned nonprofit organization," The Salvation Army's Ruth Ann Schoer told the Madison, Wisc.-area media site Channel3000. "But today we're going to come screaming into the 21st century."
The Salvation Army is hoping that its new endeavors will pave the way for another record-setting year.
Since it was started by a Salvation Army captain in San Francisco in 1891, the Red Kettle Campaign has grown into one of the most recognizable charitable campaigns in the United States. Last year, the funds from the campaign helped The Salvation Army provide food, clothing, toys and other assistance to nearly 30 million Americans in need.