Raising funds at Salvation Army's "Be the Light" luncheon. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

The nostalgic tune of “Good King Wenceslas” and the aroma of cinnamon and pumpkin pie greeted you when you entered the Kroc Center for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Kickoff Fundraising luncheon on Nov 15.  

Jessica Zielinski, Kristine Grayson, and Lt. Laura Fyn, dressed in the traditional navy blue Salvation Army uniform, greeted guests. A tree of balloons was in the entryway, but no one was sure what it was for (just yet).

As guests dined on a traditional turkey dinner, prepared by the Kroc Center’s Head Chef, Gregg Peterson, emcee Chris Ray announced that they hoped that this year’s event would top the $36,000 raised in 2018. Their goal for the day’s event was $50,000. He asked guests to ring the tiny bells on the table every time the theme “Be the Light” was mentioned.

Dick Withnell, founder of Withnell Motor Company and local philanthropist shared memories of Bill Frey (for which the street leading to the Kroc Center is named) and spoke about the importance of legacy and how the Salvation Army makes such a profound difference. He strongly suggested investing in the Salvation Army because of all the good they do.

An accompanying video and Lt. Quinton Markham highlighted some of the many services provided to those in the community. The nonprofit has the largest food bank in the Salem area, providing boxes for over 80 people a day. Last year, they provided 46,000 meals, 22,000 nights of shelter, and 400 families with emergency financial assistance. They found it is more successful to help families maintain housing than to rehouse them.

Buckets ready for donations at Salvation Army's "Be the Light" luncheon. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

The law firm of McGinty, Becher, and Hamilton brought an entire table of staff and friends including Kathy and Larry Belcher and their son, Ryan Belcher; Betsy Short, Richard McGinty, and Alex Whitaker.

In lieu of the traditional ask, the event featured a “Kettle Dash” where table hosts rapidly passed one of the signature red buckets around for donations, while holiday-clad volunteers shot dollars into the air for guests to grab for the table’s kettles. The huge tree of balloons, which ended up containing prizes, were sold to enthusiastic donors.

The event concluded with inspirational words from Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett. He said the Salvation Army is a gift to our community and encouraged everyone to “stop at the kettle.” He himself rings the bell each year and enjoys delighting children by wearing a Santa hat that complements his white beard. 

The Red Kettle Fundraiser stared in San Francisco. It is the single largest annual event for the Salvation Army and 3.3 million people volunteer for this nonprofit worldwide.

You can get involved with the Salvation Army Kroc Center by calling (503) 566-5762 or visit salem.kroccenter.org.

Mary Louise VanNatta is a Salem public relations professional writing a regular column for Salem Reporter. Tell her about your upcoming event at [email protected] or follow her on Facebook.

Jessica Zielinski and Kristine Grayson work at Salvation Army's "Be the Light" luncheon. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Lieutenants Quinton and Deanna Markham Salvation Army's "Be the Light" luncheon. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Salvation Army's "Be the Light" luncheon. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Alex Whitaker, Ryan Belcher and Betsy Short attend Salvation Army's "Be the Light" luncheon. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Lt. Laura Fyn, David Swanson and Lt. Deanna Markham attend Salvation Army's "Be the Light" luncheon. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Chris Ray and Ryan Dempster talk at Salvation Army's "Be the Light" luncheon. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)