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A passer-by drops a donation into a Salvation Army Red Kettle at Central Market earlier this month. Photo by - Brian Basham

A big year for the red kettle

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The people of Becker County stepped forward and showed their generosity this Christmas season.

At the start of the bell ringing season, the goal for the Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign in Becker County was $30,000, which is what was raised last year. When the final tally came in though, the kettles had been stuffed with $40,529.41.

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"That last week was just amazing," organizer Michele Baker said. "And then we got an anonymous $2,000 donation right before the campaign ended from a family that felt they had been very blessed during the year and they wanted to give."

All of the money raised in Becker County stays in Becker County, and there are multiple projects the money goes toward.

Baker said the Becker County chapter gives $2,500 to the diaper project, which diapers are distributed through the Becker County Food Pantry to families in need.

They also contribute $3,000 for gifts for children at Christmas and $1,000 for meals for about 75 families, which are also distributed through the food pantry.

The school project to purchase backpacks and supplies for kids in need receives $4,500.

They also spend $500 in gifts for nursing home residents. They used to deliver the gifts on Christmas, but one year Baker said she was gone and they got delivered in February for Valentine's Day instead.

"The nursing home said they were more appreciated that time of year, so now we're taking them for Valentine's Day gifts," she said.

"Last year, we actually had the high school kids take them and it was very nice. They took the time to sit and visit some of the residents."

She said they also budget $3,000 for feeding those who help with Day of Caring, but much of that food ends up being donated so they don't have to spend nearly as much.

Energy assistance, emergency assistance and motel vouchers for abuse victims, those who have lost homes to a fire or the homeless are also needs the Salvation Army helps meet.

"The Salvation Army is really intended for emergency assistance, in addition to our special projects," Baker said. "We've got representatives from Becker County Human Services and Mahube, so once those funds or help is exhausted, then we're able to pick up and help out."

They also provide gas cards for veterans or people with an unexpected illness that need to travel for treatment. And they help elderly people with prescription drug costs.

Though the Salvation Army offered to pay someone to ring the bell at Walmart this year, Baker said she's not certain it made that much of a difference in the totals.

She said there still wasn't much ringing out at Walmart, which people should consider for next year.

"The times that we did have someone at Walmart, it was a $700, $800 day. That's huge."

There are five locations around Detroit Lakes where people ring bells -- Walmart, Central Market, L&M Fleet Supply, Kmart and Washington Square Mall.

Whether it's the economy improving or people were just more in the giving spirit this year, it spelled success for the Red Kettle Campaign and those in need throughout the county.

Baker said when she saw the totals for this year, she checked a couple times to verify they had added correctly. They had.

"When I sent (the totals) down to district headquarters, I said, 'our community is unbelievable,'" she said. 'They sent it back, 'that's totally awesome.' We're very excited."

Baker said a huge thank you to the volunteers who rang the bells and the community that gave donations.

"Salvation Army really does a lot and seems to touch a lot of people's hearts."

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