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Sandra Ardoin @Sandra Ardoin

When I was writing A Reluctant Melody, I wanted my hero, Kit Barnes, to have founded an organization designed to help those who suffered from alcohol abuse. While researching ways he might have done that in 1892, I came across the history of the Salvation Army, founded in London by William Booth and his wife, Catherine, in 1865.

Originally called the Christian Mission, it’s purpose was to aid the destitute in London’s East End, meeting both physical and spiritual needs. In 1878, the organization took on the name Salvation Army, and in 1880, the army invaded the United States.

We’ve all heard the bells and seen the red kettles outside stores around Thanksgiving and Christmas. That particular campaign was the brainchild of Captain Joseph McFee and began in San Francisco in 1891. McFee wanted to provide a Christmas meal for 1,000 of the area’s poor.

But why the kettle?

Feeding so many people wouldn’t come free, so he had to raise funds. Remembering an iron pot at a dock in Liverpool where people tossed in coins for the poor, Captain McFee had his answer. He placed a pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing and raised the money he needed to provide those thousand meals. Within a few years, the idea had spread across the country.

Enjoy this short history of the Salvation Army as narrated by the late Walter Cronkite.

Frankly, I’m not sure Christmas would be the same now without hearing those bells. What about you?

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