Salvation Army Major B. Bryan Smith speaks at the Red Kettle Campaign kick-off ceremony in front of Market Basket in Biddeford on Saturday. LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune

BIDDEFORD — The Salvation Army began it’s annual Red Kettle Campaign on Saturday, marking for many the beginning of the holiday season.

Through the Red Kettle Campaign, bell ringers stand in store fronts next to a red kettle where donations are collected and used to fund Salvation Army programs.

The campaign dates back to 1891 in San Francisco, though it didn’t begin with a red kettle, said Major B. Bryan Smith of the Old Orchard Beach Salvation Army at a kick-off ceremony on Saturday at the Market Basket grocery store in Biddeford.

“It wasn’t red and shiny, instead it was a soup kettle,” said Smith. In 1891, Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee wanted to host a Christmas party for the needy in the area but didn’t have enough money to do. He set out a soup kettle to collect funds, chanting, “Keep the pot boiling.”

The Salvation Army Brass Ensemble performs at the Red Kettle Campaign kick-off ceremony in Biddeford on Saturday. LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune

Today, 127 years later, the kettle is a symbol of generosity and service, Smith said, and he is grateful for the individuals, businesses and volunteer groups who partner with the Salvation Army and help make the red kettle drive successful.

The Old Orchard Beach Salvation Army serves the Saco Bay area: Old Orchard Beach, Saco, Biddeford, Dayton and Arundel. Last year, the Red Kettle Campaign raised about $47,000, and this year organizers hope to raise $48,000, said Smith.

“There’s need everywhere, and the people within these communities (of Saco Bay) are extremely generous,” said Bill Southwick, chairman of the local Salvation Army Advisory Board.

The Old Orchard Beach Salvation Army not only provides services during Christmas time, such as providing Christmas presents for needy families, but also has several year-round programs including a food pantry, community meals, fuel assistance and housing assistance.

Old Orchard Beach Assistant Town Manager Louise Reid was a Salvation Army 0fficer for 17 years. She said the Salvation Army does a tremendous job helping those in need, and there are many people grateful for the services it provides.

“I think for each of us who give at Christmas time, we get it back a thousand times more during the year,” said Reid.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 780-9015 or [email protected].

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