The Salvation Army's Red Kettle Christmas campaign mobilized Americans to contribute a record-breaking $117 million, which will be used to help more than 5,000 local communities across the country, according to an announcement last week.
Donations for Christmas 2006 increased 5.4 percent from the previous year's $111 million, reported the Salvation Army last Friday. The evangelical ministry attributes the success of the 115-year-old campaign to the retailers who invited the bell ringers to the store front, the generosity of the American people, and volunteers.
"The Salvation Army continues to be humbled by the generosity and support of the American public," said Major George Hood, national community relations for the Salvation Army, in a statement. "This record year of giving will enable the Army to continue its critical work serving those who need it most throughout the country."
One of the highlights of last year's campaign included its national kick-off. For the tenth straight year, the Salvation Army Red Kettle launched its campaign during the halftime show of the Dallas Cowboys' traditional Thanksgiving football game. The high profile, nationally televised game included music by "American Idol" winner Carrie Underwood and a touchdown slam dunk by Dallas wide receiver Terrell Owens into an oversized Salvation Army kettle.
The campaign was also boosted by partnerships with Wal-Mart stores and Sam's Clubs across the country, who again extended the number of days that Salvation Army bell-ringers could ring in front of stores and clubs.
In total, Wal-Mart helped raise over $30 million – the most raised by a single retail partner and nearly a quarter of all Red Kettle fundraising.
Moreover, Wal-Mart made a $1 million direct donation to the Red Kettles at an event with CEO Lee Scott, as well as a $250,000 donation to its online Red Kettle at Walmart.com.
Among the prominent bell-ringers last Christmas was Former President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush. They rang bells at a local furniture store in Houston, Texas near their home. Store owner Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale dropped a check for $50,000 into the kettle during its final week before Christmas.
The Red Kettle Campaign traces its roots back to a Salvation Army captain in San Francisco in 1891. The donations from the previous year helped the evangelical Christian humanitarian group serve more than 31 million Americans in need, including 6 million who received holiday assistance such as toys, coats, rent and utility assistance, among other items.
Correction: Sunday, March 25, 2007:
An article on Tuesday, Mar. 20, 2007, about the Salvation Army's 2006 Red Kettle Christmas campaign incorrectly reported that Wal-Mart helped raise $27.3 million. The Christian Post confirmed with Matt Meenan, the media contact for The Salvation Army, that the organization had misreported the amount and that Wal-Mart had in fact helped raise over $30 million.