By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager
The cities of Bryan and College Station seem to relish the opportunity to compete in just about anything — even Christmas.
But don’t worry, we aren’t competing to see who can attract the most business or tourists, at least not this time. Instead, how about a little friendly competition to help The Salvation Army provide food, clothing, shelter, toys, financial assistance and counseling to those in need in the Brazos Valley?
College Station Mayor Karl Mooney and Bryan Mayor Andrew Nelson will participate in the Salvation Army’s annual Christmas campaign by ringing bells and collecting donations at local Walmart stores on Saturday from noon-1 p.m. Mooney will be at the College Station Walmart, while Nelson will be at the Bryan Walmart on Briarcrest.
The Mayor Ring Off has been a holiday tradition for many years. The problem is that the Bryan mayor — regardless of who it is — always seems to raise the most cash.
It’s time the good folks in College Station came together to bring that winning streak to an end. With the proper spirit of Christmas, of course.
If you happen to stop by the College Station Walmart on Saturday, say hello to Mayor Mooney and drop your spare change into that famous red kettle. You’ll be helping a bunch of your fellow residents in the process.
You can also donate online at salvationarmybcs.org. Click “Mayor Ring Off” and choose Mayor Mooney.
Speaking of the iconic red kettle, do you know the history behind it? I didn’t, either, until visiting with Paul and Analese Ryerson of The Salvation Army of Bryan/College Station. Here’s the story, courtesy of The Salvation Army:
History of the Red Kettle
Joseph McFee, The Salvation Army’s captain in San Francisco, resolved in December of 1891 to provide a free Christmas dinner to the area’s poor. But how would he pay for the food? As he went about his daily tasks, the question stayed in his mind. Suddenly, his thoughts went back to his days as a sailor in Liverpool, England. On the Stage Landing, where the boats came in, he saw a large pot into which passers-by threw charitable donations.
The next morning, he secured permission from the authorities to place a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing, at the foot of Market Street. No time was lost in securing the pot and placing it in a conspicuous position so that it could be seen by all those going to and from the ferryboats. Thus, Captain McFee launched a tradition that has spread not only throughout the United States but the world.
By Christmas 1895, the kettle was used in 30 Salvation Army locations in various sections of the West Coast area. The Sacramento Bee of that year carried a description of the Army’s Christmas activities and mentioned the contributions to street-corner kettles. Shortly afterward, two young Salvation Army officers who had been instrumental in the original use of the kettle, William A. McIntyre and N.J. Lewis, were transferred to the East.
They took with them the idea of the Christmas kettle. In 1897, McIntyre prepared his Christmas plans for Boston around the kettle, but his fellow officers refused to cooperate for fear of making spectacles of themselves. So McIntyre, his wife, and sister set up three kettles at the Washington Street thoroughfare in the heart of the city. That year, the kettle effort in Boston and other locations nationwide resulted in 150,000 Christmas dinners for the needy.
In 1898, the New York World hailed The Salvation Army kettles as “the newest and most novel device for collecting money.” The newspaper also observed, “There is a man in charge to see that contributions are not stolen.” In 1901, kettle contributions in New York City provided funds for the first mammoth sit-down dinner in Madison Square Garden, a custom that continued for many years.
Today, donations to The Salvation Army kettles at Christmas help support the nearly 30 million people served by the Army through shelters, after-school programs, addiction-recovery programs, summer camps, disaster assistance, and many other social services. Kettles can now be found in many foreign countries such as Korea, Japan, Chile, many European countries and Australia.
Wherever people find The Salvation Army, public contributions to the kettles enable The Salvation Army to bring the spirit of Christmas to those who would otherwise be forgotten all year long – to the aged and lonely, the ill, the inmates of jails and other institutions, the poor and unfortunate.
In the United States, kettles at Thanksgiving and Christmas, although changed since the first utilitarian cauldron set up in San Francisco, help make it possible for The Salvation Army to do the most good possible for nearly 30 million people each year.
Colin Killian (@ColinKillian) has been with the City of College Station since 2010 after serving 23 years as associate media relations director for the Texas A&M Athletics Department. Killian has also worked as a reporter and editor for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and Lewisville News. A native of Hobbs, N.M., he graduated from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s degree in journalism/political science.
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