WINCHESTER — Berryville Mayor Patricia Dickinson encouraged a crowd gathered inside Apple Blossom Mall on Thursday to help the local Salvation Army “do the most good” for those in need this holiday season.

They were there to kick off the charitable Christian organization’s annual Red Kettle Campaign, which runs until Dec. 24 and involves bell ringers soliciting donations at numerous kettles stationed around the community from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, except Sundays.

This year’s fundraising goal is $140,000. The funds will help families in Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties with food, temporary housing and other assistance.

“When you think about all of the charities that come and go, it’s amazing to think about how God has definitely maintained us to keep us going for 100 years,” said local Salvation Army Capt. Kelly Durant. “And even now, we need to continually be in the fight. It’s not easy to keep all of what we do running. It takes a lot of people. It takes a lot of volunteers. And it takes funds.”

The local chapter serves 42,000 hot meals a year at its shelter at 300 Fort Collier Road, which has 48 beds.

This year marks the Salvation Army’s 100th anniversary in Winchester.

“Homelessness is not going away apparently,” Durant said. “It’s increasing across the nation. According to United Way, there could be approximately 120 homeless in the Winchester area, so for us to be able to provide for 40 or more of them per night is very good.”

New this year, the Salvation Army will make it possible for people to make a Red Kettle donation via a QR code posted on signs by the bell ringers. Donors can open their smartphone camera app and hold the camera in front of the QR code. The code will immediately activate a Salvation Army donation page and enable a person to make a digital donation via Apple Pay, Google Pay or personal credit card.

A lot of times people walk past a kettle and say, “Oh, I don’t have any money on me,” and the QR code will hopefully make it easier for people to donate, Durant said. “We are trying to go with the times.”

Thursday’s festive kickoff included performances by the Salvation Army Brass Band of the National Capital Area, which played Christmas songs such as “Feliz Navidad” and “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.”

The Salvation Army also kicked off its Angel Tree Program, which provides holiday gifts to local children.

People who want to provide gifts for a child at Christmas can select an angel-shaped tag from Christmas trees placed in locations throughout the community. Each angel contains information about the child, such as age and Christmas wish list.

Durant said there are about 700 children signed up to receive gifts.

Volunteer bell ringers are still needed. About 80 people have signed up and 100 are needed, Durant said.

“The Salvation Army does so much for our community,” said Tara McInturff, director of marketing for Apple Blossom Mall. “They make sure that people get fed. They make sure kids receive gifts for toys and help with utility bills. And they provide shelter for people who are in need. So we want to thank the Salvation Army for everything they do and we wish them the best for a successful year this year.”

For information about volunteering, contact Hunter Selby at the Salvation Army 540-662-4777, ext. 14, or email him at Hunter.Selby@uss.salvationarmy.org. For more information about the Angel Tree Program, call 540-662-4777, ext. 18.

— Contact Josh Janney at jjanney@winchesterstar.com

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