IMPRESSIONS by Johnny Teglas

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Chief ding-a-ling issues challenge: Bring it on

Folks here at the newspaper get called some interesting names other than the ones our parents gave us.
We accept this as an occupational hazard.
But a couple of times a year, we don’t mind it so much.
That’s because we turn into bonafide ding-a-lings.
Yep, you got it. For those who might enjoy critically pointing out that we don’t have a clue, I say here’s your chance.
Every year, twice a year, just as the sun decides to slip over the lake before 5 p.m. and the temperatures go into free fall, we purposely choose to be ding-a-lings.
That’s because we believe it is just as important to give back to the community as it is to cover it.
One way we do so is to support the annual Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign.
We’d like to invite you to put such an effort on your 2011 calendar. It’s not that hard. It doesn’t take that much time. It gives you a wonderful opportunity to visit with old and new friends. And it helps our neighbors in need.
Even with government programs and civic group and church efforts, some needy folks slip through the cracks.
That’s when the Salvation Army steps in to shore things up.
In a nutshell, the Roane and Morgan County Salvation Army provides emergency assistance, including money for rent, utility, and medicine, and other types of relief that may not be provided by other agencies.
I got to know about the Salvation Army about three decades ago when my then- future father-in-law shared one of his World War II stories with me.
A young mountain boy - turned - sailor stranded in New York City awaiting a new ship assignment, he unexpectedly found himself with nowhere to turn.
One cold evening, he happened upon a Salvation Army chapter. They invited him in for a warm meal and an even warmer bed and blanket.
He kept telling me about that wonderfully heavy and warm wool blanket. I could almost feel its thick strands as he told and retold the story.
And I imagine it to this very day.
His appreciative tale still sends shivers down my spine.
Ever since, I’ve done my best to support the organization that supported the young man who decades later supported his future daughter who eventually became my darling wife.
With all that said, it’s not hard to connect the dots on what drives me every November to put a Red Kettle signup sheet on the wall at the office.
A few minutes of our time can make or break the lifetime of someone whom we might brush past along life’s highway.
The “ding-a-ling” gang geared up last Thursday at the Kingston Food City.
If you missed us, we’ll be back there this (Wednesday) afternoon and evening.
We invite you to stop by and visit.
Call us names.
Criticize us.
Praise us.
Do whatever you wish.
Just drop a couple of folded bills or a handful of coins in our red kettles.
Given the recent full-strength return of winter temperatures, we’ll probably be freezing our backsides off.
Help warm our hearts — and some of our fellow Roane Countians’ hearths — with your generous donations.
And … if you want to lay into the chief ding-a-ling, have at me.
I’ll be the round elf with a smile and a Virginia Tech Santa hat on — and I’ll be there for the duration.
In the event you might be skeptical about how your donations are handled, let me share two sentences a lady passed on to me last week.
She was bundled up against the weather as was I when she shared her personal Salvation Army testimony.
“These people paid my light bill when I didn’t have nothing! So, every pot I see, I put something in it.”
If you want to help in other ways feel free to contact the Salvation Army by calling 882-7711.
Salvation Army’s account of the origin of the Red
Kettle Campaign:
The Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee in San Francisco had resolved, in December of 1891, to provide a free Christmas dinner to the area’s poor persons.  But how would he pay for the food?
As he went about his daily tasks, his thoughts went back to his days as a sailor in Liverpool, England. He’d seen a large pot, called “Simpson’s pot” into which charitable donations were thrown by passersby.
On the next morning, he secured permission from the authorities to place a crab pot at the Oakland ferry landing, at the foot of Market Street.
In addition, a brass urn was placed on a stand in the waiting room for the same purpose.
Thus, McFee launched a tradition that has spread not only throughout the United States, but throughout 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 Salvation Army kettles at Christmastime support holiday meals for homeless and needy families, but also help the Salvation Army serve 30 million people through a myriad of other services all year long
From its humble beginnings as a local San Francisco fundraiser featuring a single crab pot in 1891, the Red Kettle Campaign has grown into one of the most recognizable and important charitable campaigns in the United States.
These days, more than 25,000 Salvation Army volunteers spread throughout the country from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve to ring bells and solicit spare change donations from holiday shoppers.
Last year, the campaign raised a record $139 million in kettles nationwide — an all-time record and an astounding 7 percent increase from the previous year despite the economic downturn.
The Red Kettle Campaign helps the Army to serve more than 4 million people in need during the Christmas season and nearly 30 million individuals year-round.
All money raised in the red kettles stays in the community in which it was collected.