Salvation Army's holiday events help people in need

Ringing bells, Red Kettles and the Angel Tree are signs from The Salvation Army that the holidays are back and people in Amarillo are in need.

The high winds of the Texas Panhandle didn't keep the well-known Bell Ringers and Red Kettles from coming out of hibernation Friday for another season.

Believe it or not, the Kettle tradition began in 1891 when Cpt. Joseph McFee set a pot at the foot of the San Francisco Market Place to raise donations for a Christmas dinner to be offered to the poor.

Later in the 1800s, two Salvation Army officers took the idea with them to the East Coast and used a Kettle instead of a pot. The tradition has been going ever since.

"I don't know where any of us would be in life without the help of somebody else at some point in life," Salvation Army Bell Ringer Michael Tunstall said. "And that's what they are to me. They're just a beacon of light and a beacon of hope for somebody in need."

Tunstall has personally benefited from the help of the Salvation Army and now dedicates his time to helping them help others.

The money raised by the Kettles goes toward providing holiday meals for the needy, care packages, visits to the elderly and more.

And who could forget the Angel Tree? The Christmas tree set up in Westgate Mall helps thousands of children every year to have a happy Christmas.

Children up to the age of 14 are registered by their parents, who meet the government's guidelines for poverty, and put their name, age, clothing sizes and a Christmas wish on an angel that is placed on the tree. Anyone can stop by, pick out a child and then surprise them with clothing they need and a wish- usually a toy the kids ask for- to brighten up their holiday.

"I think it benefits them tremendously," Salvation Army Major Cheryl Grider said. "I had so many mothers that tell me that their children really wouldn't have gotten anything this year if it weren't for this because every bit of what they earn is going towards their bills right now."

The Angel Tree started back in 1979 in Lynchburg, Va., by a Salvation Army officer who had the idea of trying to get families more connected with the children they help.

The Angel Tree is located in the Center Court of Westgate Mall and will be up until Dec. 9.