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Salvation Army Volunteers Raise Money for Holidays

HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – Standing outside local grocery stores, most Salvation Army volunteers look forward to the human interaction while collecting donations.

“I like people, I like being around people,” said Sandra Jackson, of Yonkers, who stood outside of the A&P in Hastings recently.  “You see the happy ones, the sad ones and you hear all the war stories.”

Jackson is one of hundreds of volunteers who collect donations at 500 kettles in the greater New York area.  Many volunteers such as Jackson have only recently gotten involved collecting donations.

“This is my third day here, I just got involved,” she said.  “I live in the area of the Salvation Army.  I’ve been walking past it for so many years and saying, ‘I want to do it, I want to do it,’ so I just made up my mind to do it.”

"Last year, the greater New York area volunteers raised $25 million," said Denise Richardson, who is the director of communications for the greater New York area chapter of the Salvation Army.

Richardson said that while most of those working the kettles are volunteers, some collectors are paid.

While many people think it was the Salvation Army collectors who dressed up as Santa, it was actually the Volunteers of America, Richardson said.

The Salvation Army can be traced back to San Francisco. It was 1891 when English sailor Joseph McFee was looking for a way to raise money for the poor during Christmas when he remembered seeing passengers from docked boats in England tossing coins into a large kettle called "Simpson's Pot."

McFee set up his first kettle at the Oakland Ferry Landing with a sign which read "Keep the Pot Boiling." He raised enough money that year to provide Christmas dinner to many poor families.

By 1897, kettles had gone nationwide funding 150,000 Christmas dinners for the poor and by 1901, donations in New York City funded a sit-down dinner held at the old Madison Square Garden.

Jackson said working outside can be difficult at times, but the warm weather has made things a little easier for her and other local volunteers.

“It gets cold around here sometimes and when the snow comes and the rain comes that’s the bad part,” she said.  “So far I’ve been lucky though.”

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