Salvation Army Kettles Get Gold, Diamonds This Christmas

It is usual for Salvation Army volunteers to wear Santa’s hat and ring bells around Christmas to collect coins to feed the poor, but this time they witnessed unusual generosity with checks, gold coins and diamonds slipping in to their red kettles.

This Christmas season, the Salvation Army’s annual red kettle campaign received checks worth thousands of dollars, at least 40 gold coins, and other valuable treasures such as diamonds, the Christian charity said.

A check for $10,000 was found placed in a kettle outside a Menlo Park Safeway in Redwood City, Calif., Friday. And three days earlier, another anonymous donor left a $5,000 check outside another Safeway in Redwood City.

The fundraising campaign, which starts each year on the Friday after Thanksgiving and ends on Christmas Eve, also received 36 $100 bills in Chattanooga, Tenn.; a gold coin worth $1,600 in Brown County, Wis.; a $20 gold coin worth about $1,400; a set of gold teeth in Fort Myers, Fla.; five gold Krugerrand coins worth about $8,000 together in Frederick, Md.; and a diamond ring valued at about $5,000 wrapped in a $1 dollar bill in Spokane, Wash.

The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division, which serves Chicago, northern Illinois and northwestern Ind., said “these donations are small when compared to the bountiful blessings God has bestowed on us.”

“It’s a nice surprise,” CNN Money quoted spokeswoman Jennifer Byrd as saying. “This happens every year. There’s always a lot of anticipation about where the first gold coin will pop up.”

However, given that the campaign has received about 400 gold coins from anonymous donors over the past 25 years, this year’s contribution appears to be far more than the average.

The Salvation Army serves about 30 million people every year, providing food, clothing and toys to poor families. Last year’s kettle donations amounted to $142 million.

The red kettle campaign goes back to 1891, when Joseph McFee, a Salvation Army captain in San Francisco wanted to help the city’s poor. He had a desire to give Christmas supper to at least 1,000 poor people, but had no money.

McFee prayed about it. Recalling his days as a sailor in England where he saw a large iron kettle called “Simpson’s Pot,” which would collect coins for the needy, he put a pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing, by the foot of San Francisco’s Market Street. He placed a sign next to it that read, “Keep the Pot Boiling.” By Christmas, the kettle had raised enough money to feed the poor.