AUGUSTA, Maine — The Salvation Army’s bell-ringing, red kettle season began Thursday in Maine when Gov. Paul LePage made the first donation after giving brief remarks in the Cabinet Room.
LePage said it was important to remember that charitable work continues year-round, not just during the holiday season, when volunteers can be seen ringing bells and collecting donations at street corners and shopping plazas throughout the state.
“This time of year, you talk about the Salvation Army ringing the bells, and the little red kettles, the snowy nights and cold afternoons, but what we must remember is Salvation Army is there 365, every single day of the year, Salvation Army is out there helping the people,” he said.
Salvation Army is a global evangelical Christian organization, with a focus on charitable works. In Maine, the group hopes to raise $800,000 this year with its red kettle campaign. Last year, it raised more than $700,000 according to Northern New England Division spokeswoman Patricia James.
The money helps pay for meals and gifts around Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as ongoing programs for the poor throughout the state, including a summer camp in Standish, a senior center in Portland and a soup kitchen in Bangor. James said the group assisted 55,000 Maine men, women and children, including 25,000 during the holiday season.
The first question LePage asked of the group when he entered the room was whether Marden’s — the regional surplus and salvage chain he managed before he was governor — still partnered with the Salvation Army each year.
LePage said he was pleased to know the Salvation Army had continued to partner with Marden’s, which provides space for the organization to gather donations and prepare gift baskets for children, the governor said.
“I used to go to work every morning and I’d have to go through the whole store to get to my office,” he said. “And every day, Salvation Army folks were bringing goods and gifts and things, preparing gift baskets for kids, and it was really heart-warming.”
Salvation Army Maj. David Dickson urged all Mainers to support the group’s charitable works.
“The contributions of all the folks in Maine will help us meet the needs of folks who come in seeking assistance, not only during Christmas, but ongoing,” he said.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.