Elias Garcia, Bianca Mendoza and Elias Markham raise money for Red Kettle Campaign. (Courtesy/Quinton Markham)

Cheryll Grear spends the final weeks of the year singing acapella versions of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and other holiday jingles as she rings a bell outside storefronts.

The 70-year-old is one of the volunteers raising money for the Salvation Army during its annual Red Kettle Campaign.

Grear comes from a musical family and loves to sing. Her grandfather played the violin and she would sing as he played progressively higher notes.

“He played with harmonies so much with me that they’re engrained,” she said. “I can harmonize with most any voice.”

Grear loves people and wanted to find a way she could volunteer while being in a wheelchair. She’s been volunteering with Salvation Army for five years now and said she’s brought smiles to even the grumpiest of patrons.

“When I smile, there’s no doubt even with the mask on that I’m smiling,” Grear said.

The Salvation Army is looking for more volunteers like Grear this year as many have backed out because of Covid.

The Red Kettle campaign is part of the Salvation Army’s heritage, dating back to 1891, said Captain Quinton Markham, Salvation Army's Marion and Polk County Coordinator.

“As you can imagine, the need in the community is greater than we’ve ever seen,” he said.

He said in March the number of people getting food boxes from the Salvation Army’s Family Service Office in Salem tripled.

“And really hasn’t let up,” Markham said.

The money raised through the December fundraiser stays local and helps pay for the food boxes, rent and utility assistance and the Lighthouse Shelter, which houses anywhere from 20 to 60 people. 

Markham said Salvation Army is also serving 200 meals a day in Lyons and Mill City for families that were impacted by the September wildfires.

The campaign is crucial to keeping those programs running, Markham said, and volunteers play an important role by standing outside businesses and ringing bells.

The fundraiser has a $10,000 goal and so far, $1,414 has been raised.

This year, volunteers and staff will have to greet people with a mask on and are and encouraged to sanitize the kettles every few minutes, Markham said.

Kettles are typically at businesses like Fred Meyer, Walmart, Bi-Mart, Safeway, Hobby Lobby and the Salem Center. If you want to catch Grear’s signing, she’ll be at the Fred Meyer in south Salem on Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

For those who don’t want to donate in person, Markham said they can donate online at Redkettlesalem.org. To volunteer for bell ringing call 503-798-4830.

Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

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