Red Kettle Campaign is underway

T-L Photo/JENNIFER COMPSTON-STROUGH ABOVE: Salvation Army Maj. Lewis Patrick speaks during the organization’s Red Kettle Campaign kickoff at the Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville on Thursday.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The “season of love” is officially underway after the Belmont County Salvation Army kicked off its annual Red Kettle Campaign at the Ohio Valley Mall on Thursday.

Maj. Lewis Patrick, who helms the Salvation Army’s operations based in Bellaire along with Maj. Norma Patrick, led the ceremony at the mall’s center court. It featured selections of holiday music performed by band and chorus members from St. John Academy in Bellaire. Patrick spoke about the spirit of giving and the season of love as he explained how proceeds of the organization’s collections are used.

“What happens with those pennies, nickles, dimes and checks?” Patrick asked the people who gathered for the event before highlighting some of the Salvation Army’s initiatives that holiday donations support.

He said the money goes to fund operations of Booth’s Bistro, a restaurant-style eatery the Salvation Army opened in Bellaire in April. He said its serves hot meals to anyone who needs one twice a week. Patrons can choose from the bistro’s menu and enjoy a restaurant-style atmosphere as part of the organization’s “different kind of soup kitchen” initiative.

Meals served there are completely free, and the staff invites anyone who is in need of a hot meal or in need of some company to come visit the site.

In addition, Patrick said holiday donations dropped in red kettles support the Salvation Army’s shelter in Bellaire. The 40-bed shelter is nearing capacity, he said, with about 32 people currently housed there.

The money also goes to disaster relief efforts. Patrick said the organization helps disaster victims and also responds to fires, floods and other emergencies with its disaster response vehicle, which provides support to first responders by offering them, food, drink and shelter as needed while they work to mitigate dangerous situations.

“Our goal is to help people wherever possible,” Patrick said.

He said the fundraising goal this holiday season is to collect $140,000 over the course of an eight-week period. He said bell ringers will be posted with kettles at retail stores throughout the Ohio Valley.

“Thank you for what you have already done,” Patrick said to the audience and to donors across the region. “And thank you for what you are going to do.”

In addition to the collection campaign, the Salvation Army has its Giving Tree stationed at the mall’s center court, covered in tags for the public to take. Each tag contains information about how to buy gifts that could make the holidays happier for a local child or family.

“Belmont County’s Salvation Army Giving Tree is a wonderful tradition at Ohio Valley Mall and we are thrilled to offer it,” Candi Noble-Greathouse, corporate communications director with the Ohio Valley Mall, said. “I can say we have already had calls for the last two months on the specific day they will be open, and people are already wanting to select names from the tree.”

She said she had spoken to Salvation Army representatives and there could be as many as 2,000 names on the tree.

Staff Writer Robert DeFrank contributed to this report.