During The Salvation Army's 2010 Red Kettle Campaign, thousands of the trademark bell ringers canvassed the Fargo-Moorhead area and scrounged up a record $809,000 from generous patrons.
No small feat for a fundraising event that lasts a mere five weeks.
It will be an even greater accomplishment, then, if this year's goal can be met in the same timeframe.
With the official start of the 2011 Red Kettle Campaign last Tuesday at West Acres, the clock is ticking to reach another milestone: $810,000 to help fund Fargo's Salvation Army for another year.
Sixty-five percent of The Salvation Army's yearly budget comes from the Red Kettle Campaign, which means it is critical to the organization's ability to "continue to be a place where people can turn to," Capt. Bill Mealy said.
Last year, The Salvation Army served more than 21,300 people in Fargo-Moorhead. Volunteers put in nearly 23,500 combined hours, approximately 3,000 of which came during the spring flood.
Former Fargo Mayor Bruce Furness was named the Honorary Kettle Chairman for this year's campaign. Furness is semi-retired, and serves as a director for State Bank & Trust, Lake Agassiz Water Authority, INREIT, The Consensus Council, Red River Zoo, the Fargo-Moorhead Area Foundation and the Metro Sports Foundation.
"No one is ever turned away from the Salvation Army's doors," he said.
The Salvation Army serves the community in several capacities, including disaster assistance, medical assistance, utility assistance, rent or mortgage assistance, as well as offering meals, clothing and furniture to those in need. But because of last year's record Red Kettle Campaign, they were able to offer a few new services this summer for the first time, Capt. Mealy said.
There are 32 proposed locations for the red kettles in the area, but just three are in West Fargo. SunMart will have a kettle occupied daily, while Big Lots and Old Navy will have ringers on Fridays and Saturdays only.
Approximately 4,400 volunteers helped ring bells in 2010, and just as The Salvation Army has raised the bar on its fundraising goal, it also has hopes of getting more of the community involved, as well.
"Our goal this year is 5,000 volunteers," Furness said.
For more information on how to volunteer, visit tsafargo.org. There also is a link to for online donations.
At 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve, the bells will quit ringing for another year. That means the clock is ticking for The Salvation Army to raise its much-needed funds.
"The Salvation Army is only a small cadre of paid stuff, but a huge army of volunteers," Furness said. "Remember: there is no better exercise for the heart than bending down to lift up others."