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Local Salvation Army launches its kettle campaign

Shoppers in Brooke and Hancock counties this weekend will hear the familiar ring of bells and the sight of Angel trees as the Salvation Army again asks them to remember those who are less fortunate during the holiday season.

Salvation Army Capt. Gene Hunt said the nonprofit organization provided Thanksgiving food baskets to about 200 households in the two counties and expects to provide food and Christmas gifts to about 350 for the holiday.

Hunt oversees the Salvation Army’s headquarters on Cove Road in Weirton and its service center on Commerce Street (state Route 2) in Wellsburg, the latter with the help of Barb McConnell.

He said the number aided by the Salvation Army has increased in recent years, partly because residents were impacted by the pandemic and partly because they have experienced the kind of hard times that have brought many to the charity’s doors through the years.

Hunt said with some families living from paycheck to paycheck, “It doesn’t take much. Just one thing can throw them off.”

He said since coming to the area in 2019, he’s been impressed by the compassion many local residents have for their neighbors.

“We have been blessed in both communities with people who believe in our mission and support us,” said Hunt.

And the Salvation Army again is looking for people to serve as bell ringers outside area stores or make donations of food, toys or money to brighten someone’s Christmas.

Rebecca Bell, who assists Hunt at the Weirton headquarters, noted the Salvation Army also is hiring part-time bell ringers for those who could use some extra cash for the holidays or are struggling financially themselves.

Posted by the Salvation Army’s well-known red kettles, bell ringers can be found outside the Wellsburg Kroger and Dollar General Market stores, Follansbee Riesbeck’s store and the Weirton Kroger and Wal-Mart stores.

There are plans to add the new Big Lots store in Weirton in the near future.

Patrons of the Weirton Wal-Mart also will find angel trees on which are hung paper ornaments bearing the Christmas wishes of local children in need.

McConnell and Bell said while some businesses have chosen not to host angel trees, there also are a number where the staff have taken on fulfilling the wishes on their own.

They noted some civic groups also have stepped up in that way.

McConnell said individuals also may donate sports equipment and other playthings that have been popular with youth through the years.

She added donations of money and gift cards allow Salvation Army staff to purchase Christmas gifts not received through the angel trees as well as buy perishable food for the families it serves, pending the donors’ wishes.

For information about helping or donating, call (304) 737-0071 or (304) 748-4310.

Hunt said the Salvation Army’s mission is to aid people throughout the year, in the name of Jesus Christ, and that doesn’t stop after Christmas.

He noted its work also includes helping struggling residents to pay their rent and utility bills and receive clothing for all seasons.

People aided by the Salvation Army receive vouchers that allow them to shop, at no cost, in the Salvation Army’s thrift stores, proceeds of which also go to its charitable operations.

Hunt confirmed he’s made a personal habit of bell ringing at least once during the Christmas season himself, and he’s been known to step in more than once when there was a gap in the bell ringer schedule.

He said thanks to community support, the work of the Salvation Army extends far beyond the staffs of the Weirton and Wellsburg locations.

“We’re a bigger family than we are on paper,” said Hunt.

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