The Salvation Army of Longview is asking community members for support as the holiday season draws near.

The nonprofit organization hopes to ease “pandemic poverty” through its annual Red Kettle campaign.

Capt. Nicholas Hutchinson said the need for support is “absolutely essential” this year.

“With certain aid programs ending, extensions on unemployment, and the holdover of eviction notices ending, it’s created quite a need in our community,” Hutchinson said.

The Salvation Army of Longview previously only served Gregg County, but it recently expanded to add Harrison County.

Hutchinson said the agency is hoping to raise $225,000 through this year’s Red Kettle campaign.

Despite COVID-19 hitting East Texans’ finances in 2020, Hutchinson said the Red Kettle campaign did well.

“I think everybody understood the pandemic had caused financial difficulties for most Americans,” he said. “Those that were able to give gave more freely. Everybody knew someone who was in need.”

According to Hutchinson, the funds raised from the Red Kettle campaign don’t just provide assistance for Christmas.

“It helps to keep our shelter open 365 days a year. It helps keep our soup kitchen open seven days a week and ensures that we have the funds available to fill the shelves of our food pantry and provide rent and utility assistance for individuals and families,” he said.

Nov. 1 was the first official day of bell ringing, with JCPenney, Dillard’s and the downtown Longview post office being the only current locations for the campaign.

More locations will be available this week at Hobby Lobby and the Longview Mall main entrance, Hutchinson said. By Thanksgiving, all local Walmart and Super 1 Foods locations will host red kettles.

Along with the Red Kettle campaign, The Salvation Army of Longview is preparing its annual Angel Tree program.

Angel Trees will be at local Walmart Supercenters in Longview and Kilgore and at the Longview Mall. The Salvation Army also has a Registry For Good with Walmart.com.

“We have selected gifts that have been requested by children, and then folks can go onto the Registry For Good, order that gift, have it shipped directly to us and we will ensure that the child receives that gift,” Hutchinson said.

The deadline to turn in gifts is Dec. 11.

The Red Kettle Challenge and virtual kettle will return for the second year.

The Salvation Army of Longview raised more than $10,000 via online kettles this past year, Hutchinson said.

The Red Kettle Challenge allows businesses, teams or individuals to create their own online red kettle and choose which city to support.

“I think with fewer people carrying cash, the online kettle is really the future of kettles,” Hutchinson said. “Also it passively allows a group to give back to the community where they don’t have to go and stand outside a store for eight hours in the cold or the rain, but instead they can post their own online kettle and raise funds that way without having to brave the weather.”

To set up a “virtual kettle,” go to salvationarmytexas.org/longview.

This year’s theme for The Salvation Army is “Hope Marches On.”

“Even in the midst of a pandemic that has now stretched two years, we’re still marching forward to bring hope to those who need it,” Hutchinson said. “I think East Texas is resilient, and even in the midst of trial and difficulty, we continue on. We leave no one behind — instead we pick people up and we show them that hope hasn’t stopped.”

Hutchinson added that anyone interested in ringing bells for the Red Kettle campaign can register online and choose a shift that’s “very easy.”

Visit registertoring.com to register and for additional information.

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