Sleigh bells are ringing, and so are kettles.
The Salvation Army’s annual fundraising campaign officially began Wednesday with its 22nd annual Kettle Kick-Off Breakfast at River Stone Manor.
“It was a good feeling in the air. Everybody seemed to be really happy,” said Major Michael Himes of the Schenectady Salvation Army.
Himes has a good feeling about the 2012 campaign. Last year, the organization surpassed its $125,000 goal by $7,000. This year’s goal is $140,000.
“We’ll go for broke,” he said.
The need is there, as the number of people the Salvation Army serves at its soup kitchen is up by about 10 percent.
“We’re up to about 300 people a day, and, of course, expenses have gone up, with gasoline and those kind of things,” he said.
The Salvation Army also provides Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, including home-delivered meals through a collaboration with Meals on Wheels. They will distribute about 500 meals on those days, according to Himes.
The Salvation Army also operates the Evangeline Booth Home, a local shelter for women and children, and is helping with Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
More than 30 groups are participating in the kettle campaign, including churches, schools and the Kiwanis, Masonic and Rotary clubs. Volunteers will ring bells at about a dozen collection sites across Schenectady County, including local Price Chopper and Walmart stores, Rotterdam Square mall, the Niskayuna Co-op and ShopRite.
More volunteers are needed. To volunteer as an individual, workplace or group, contact Himes at 346-0222 or email Michael.Himes@use.salvationarmy.org.
Also at the breakfast Wednesday, First Niagara, Penske Truck Leasing and Sealy Mattresses received the 2012 Spirit Award for bringing 450 new mattresses to the region for local victims of tropical storms Irene and Lee last year.
Musical entertainment was provided by children from the Schenectady Salvation Army Beginner Music School, which provides free instruments and instruction to children in need, as well as to the intergenerational Salvation Army Band.