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Like strands of blinking lights strung alongside inflatable reindeer on front lawns, mall Santas and seemingly ubiquitous recordings of "Jingle Bell Rock," the Salvation Army's red kettles and bell-ringers posted on city sidewalks and outside suburban stores have been among the most familiar sights and sounds of the holiday season for more than a century.
Begun by a former sailor in San Francisco in 1891 who remembered seeing a similar collection receptacle years earlier in Liverpool, England, the original Salvation Army kettle was an old crab pot mounted on a tripod at the old Oakland ferry station, into which passersby tossed coins to help the needy.
These days the trademark kettles are often equipped with automated ringers as well as credit card swiping equipment, and some also boast the latest charitable permutation: corporate sponsors.
For only $1,000, you or your business can secure the naming rights to a kettle - maybe not as prestigious as calling your sports venue Citi Field or MetLife Stadium, but at least the money goes to a good cause.
The Norwich Salvation Army reports that so far it has had one response to the new campaign: Mohegan Sun casino is sponsoring the kettle outside the Norwichtown Commons Stop & Shop supermarket.
"It's the first time I've done it in Norwich," Jerry Uttley, captain of the Norwich Salvation Army, said last week. "It's a new idea that has worked in other locations in Connecticut. I figured I would give it a shot."
We applaud any worthwhile charity that comes up with new, creative ways of raising money but can't help wondering where or if the Salvation Army, founded as a Christian mission in 1865, would draw the line on kettle sponsors. Could there be an Acme Bail Bondsman, Joe's Bar & Grille or Susie's Massage Parlor kettle?
The Salvation Army points out that though its roots are based in religion, the money it raises from Christmas kettles goes to buy food for poor families and toys for children without regard to their faith.
In other words, it accepts all denominations - especially 10s and 20s.