Each time I hear Craig Morrow ringing his Salvation Army Red Kettle Bell in front of the Safeway market in Felton, I am reminded that Christmastime has arrived.
Hearing that bell ring, I smile, knowing so many of us will not go without a Christmas dinner this year and that a child will have a present because of the money collected in the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle. This money is spent here in Santa Cruz County, and with administrative costs at only ten percent of their budget, the Army is able to provide food and warm clothing, emergency housing and veteran’s assistance, drug rehab programs, thrift shops and youth camps.
Craig Morrow became involved with the Red Kettle program the Christmas following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake which destroyed his and his mom’s home in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Salvation Army came to their assistance and, sadly, the week after that quake, his mom passed away from a heart attack. Grateful for that assistance, Craig has spent these last 24 years “paying it forward” as a bell ringer by bringing in thousands of dollars to assist others in need of the programs offered by the Salvation Army.
After hearing the story of Craig, I wanted to experience one day of ringing the Red Kettle bell. Last Saturday, giving Craig a day off I was scheduled to take his place. I wanted to witness first hand, the unselfish giving of our Valley’s residents. How many of us are givers and would these givers be only adults; or would they be teenagers or younger or both? I wanted to hear their comments and thank them for their generosity.
When the weather in Felton dropped to the 30s, and the report announced ‘rain and possibly snow,’ I nearly chickened out. Rain and cold do not appeal to me.
Thinking on this, I reminded myself that the homeless adults and children, and even those who cannot afford heating their home, have no choice but to weather the storm, so to speak, not just for a few hours, but for night after night and week after week. For me it would be for just one day and then I could hurry home where it is warm and my dinner would be waiting.
Saturday arrived; it had rained and was 30 degrees! I had a thermos of coffee and a sandwich and was dressed in Hubby Norm’s woolen red calf socks, his football parka, two sweaters, a scarf and a fleece jacket. I had added a blanket to wrap around my legs when it got dark and colder. I resembled a stuffed animal.
Lt. Stacy from the Salvation Army arrived, gave me a few instructions, set up the red kettle in its stand and a folding chair, handed me the little red bell, saying she would return at 6:30 p.m. and was off. I was alone, but not for long.
My first donor was a young man carrying a box of donuts, followed by a man carrying milk. They hurriedly dumped in the loose change they had received from their purchases. Merry Christmas” I said. ”You too,” one replied.
Three teenaged girls arrived with more change. An elderly gentleman added folded money to the kettle, and shaking my hand, thanked me for my service. One man saluted me and one man sang to me. Two-year-old Coral pushed change into the kettle and women thanked me for donating my time. I was asked by many…”Where’s Craig, is he sick? He’s been here for as long as I’ve lived here, over 21 years,” one elderly couple said. “I like coming here to give a few dollars and talk to Craig for a while” Adrian Fuhrman of Felton told me. Later, Adrian returned with cookies he had baked.
A lovely lady putting money in the kettle remarked how cold I must be and returned with a package of hand warmers. An acquaintance came over to tell me she had survived several operations over the past year; she pulled up her shirt showing her scars. I winced!
Nearing the end of my day, a tattered-looking young man on a bike rode up. Holding out his hand with a few coins in it, gave me half for the kettle, and then told me “we don’t want charity, we need jobs; please ma’am, ask them for jobs,” he pleaded. As he rode away he waved; I cried.
Why did I spend my day ringing the Red Kettle Bell? If this story will encourage only one person to give enough money for only one dinner, it will have been worth my day spent ringing the Red Kettle Bell.
- Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.