LIHUE — With his Santa hat on and a jolly smile on his face, Lihue resident Robert Staton rang a bell in the hopes of receiving donations for the Salvation Army.
“I love the people because they’re so giving,” said Staton Tuesday outside Walmart, as people put change and small bills into the fundraising kettle. “It’s really, really nice.”
The Salvation Army bell ringer is among 100 people who work or volunteer for the Red Kettle campaign, a fundraising program that supports the less fortunate.
“It’s really important that we meet our goals so that we’re able to provide all the services that the community needs year-round,” said Elizabeth Gross, Kauai County coordinator for the Salvation Army.
For the Lihue Salvation Army site, this year’s goal is $65,000. The goal for the Hanapepe site is $32,000. As of Tuesday, the Lihue area has raised $35,000 and Hanapepe has garnered $20,000.
With two weeks left, Gross hopes more people will give as well as volunteer.
“In order to make our goals, we really need to fill in our volunteer spots and get people to ring,” Gross said. “It seemed like a lot of groups volunteered in the season, but we really need help for these two weeks to push it and make it happen.”
Last year, the Kauai Salvation Army raised about $80,000 from the Red Kettle campaign.
The fundraising campaign supports the soup kitchens that run twice a week in Lihue and three times a week in Hanapepe.
In the Lihue area last year, Gross said, about 1,000 meals were served every month.
It was at the soup kitchen where Staton got his start with the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign.
“(My wife and I) were homeless for two and a half years and they gave us food and helped us out,” Staton said. “Now we have a place on our own. It was them and God that helped us.”
Besides the soup kitchen, Gross said the donations support emergency disasters, social services, food to needy families and will allow families to shop and get items from the Salvation Army’s Thrift Stores at no cost.
“We have people who come into our soup kitchen every week who are very dependent on the meal: either being seniors on a fixed income or families who are struggling to stay in a home or have been kicked out of their housing situation or homeless people who need a hot meal and that place of food, fellowship and a safe place to be,” she said.
Lihue has nine sites for bell ringing. Walmart, Safeway Lihue and Kapaa, Times Lihue and Kmart are among the areas. Sites on the Westside include Eleele and Waimea Big Save.
“We do a half day on Christmas Eve; that’s the last day,” she said. “People can still send donations afterwards, but it’s really good for us to receive the donations earlier or on Christmas Eve, so that we’re able to count it up and know if we made our goal or not.”
Shifts are from two to six hours and start as early as 10:30 a.m. or as late as 7:30 p.m. To volunteer, visit volunteer.usawest.org.