A young mother approaches the supermarket door and her two children light up with anticipation. She stops to search her purse for loose change as her little boy jumps up and down. When she finds two quarters, she gives them to her child and he rushes to the red kettle. Once there, he carefully drops the coins, one by one, into the slot, receiving a thank you and a smile from the bell ringer nearby.

This scene plays out over and over again throughout the season and is often a child’s first experience with charitable giving and the Salvation Army.

Real Estate Wednesdays began in 2013 when super volunteer, Marlene Klotz-Collins explained to JoAnn Callaway at lunch that on Wednesdays, the Salvation Army had difficulty recruiting volunteers and consequently had to pay minimum-wage workers to ring the bells at red kettles. “Joseph and I can do Wednesdays”, JoAnn said, and before dessert she had volunteered the entire Home Ownership Industry, agents, brokers, lenders, title officers and affiliates, in Maricopa county to ring the bells as well. They just didn’t know it yet.

That first year, more than 1,100 Home Ownership Industry volunteers rang the bells at almost 100 kettles each Wednesday between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last season, the effort grew to over 3,000 participants and topped the million-dollar mark since its inception.

“Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without ringing the bells,” says Alison Hudgins, Title Officer at Old Republic. “I love the people and the Salvation Army stories they tell as they stuff a bill into the slot.”

Income from the kettles remains a big part of the Army’s budget as they provide services such as family shelters, meals for the elderly, disaster response, abuse counseling, addiction recovery, summer water drives, the Kroc Center and more all year. At Thanksgiving, the Army feeds 3,000 meals at the Phoenix Convention Center to the homeless. The big event is Christmas day, when more than 5,000 enjoy a holiday meal at the convention center. Free haircuts and phone calls anywhere in the USA are offered, and clothing is made available to those in need. All this comes from Red Kettle donations.

Did You Know?
Commissioned to write a new Christmas song for Bing Crosby’s 1951 movie, The Lemon Drop Kid, Jay Livingston and Roy Evans were inspired by the Salvation Army kettles in front of The New York City department stores.

“Silver Bells” became a Christmas standard and has been recorded by more than twenty major artists including Elvis Presley and Twisted Sister.

As you visit your local retailer this season and when you hear the ringing bells, stop for a moment and say hi to the volunteer. It just may be your Realtor, home inspector or mortgage lender.