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Holiday bells ring for a good cause
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It seems like they’re everywhere. They stand outside in the cold at shopping malls and grocery stores, ringing, ringing, ringing those little bells as passersby toss coins into the red kettle.

They’re all volunteers for the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign, and they are the ones who really ring in the holiday spirit.

Hall County Salvation Army volunteers began to take 25 posts throughout the Gainesville area on Friday to collect spare change donations from anyone who cares to contribute to the non-profit organization.

Corps officer Capt. Chad Williams said the Hall County and surrounding area chapter of the Salvation Army raised $158,000 from the 2006 Red Kettle Drive.

"Every year — it’s been going on since 1891 — we use this opportunity at Christmastime to raise funds to help supplement what we do for needy families during Christmastime, like giving them food and toys, as well as to supplement our operating budget," Williams said.

The kettle drive channels 89 cents of every dollar raised back into the local community, he said.

The campaign runs through Christmas Eve and, in addition to Christmas programs, benefits the Salvation Army’s Gainesville homeless shelter on Dorsey Street, along with leadership programs for young men and women.

Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign can be found from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. at various locations, including Wal-Mart in Gainesville, Oakwood and Dawsonville; the Kroger on Thompson Bridge Road; the Dawsonville outlet stores; and Lakeshore Mall in Gainesville.

"Over the course of some 30 odd days it takes a couple hundred people to make sure we’re getting places manned that need to be manned," Williams said.

He added that individuals or groups are invited to volunteer to manage a kettle, even for just a couple of hours.

Since its beginnings in San Francisco 116 years ago, the Salvation Army campaign has grown to include about 25,000 volunteers across the country each year who solicit donations from holiday shoppers. Last year, the campaign raised a record $117 million nationwide and served 34 million Americans in need of food, shelter and clothing.