More than Black Friday or Cyber Monday, The Salvation Army’s iconic and ubiquitous red donation kettles, accompanied by bell-ringing volunteers, signify that the holiday season is upon us.
This year, the century-old tradition got a major boost by an anonymous and unprecedented donation: a $500,000 check slipped into a kettle over the weekend that was stationed in front of a grocery store in Rosemount, Minn.
“We are simply stunned and honored to have received such a generous gift,” Maj. Jeff Strickler, the Salvation Army’s commander for the Twin Cities, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
“This is a true blessing and it could not come at a better time for the Salvation Army and the people we serve,” he said.
This was the biggest single kettle donation ever deposited in a Salvation Army kettle in the Twin Cities, reported the Tribune, twenty times greater than the previous record of $25,000.
On a typical day, the kettle takes in about $30 an hour, says the charity, which raised $2 billion in donations worldwide last year and spent 81 percent of its expenses on programs, according to The Christian Science Monitor rankings.
The Salvation Army – an international Christian organization that provides meals and shelter to the homeless, humanitarian relief around the world, and other social services – said Monday that the couple that dropped off the check wants to remain anonymous.
But in a statement from the donors the charity provided to the Tribune, the couple said they made the generous donation in honor of their father, who served in World War I and was grateful to Salvation Army volunteers who brought soldiers free coffee and doughnuts.
The two also said they were inspired by challenges earlier in their lives that forced them to collect food discarded at a grocery store to feed themselves.
“You get to a point in life where it’s time to take care of others, the way you were taken care of,” the donors said in a statement to the Tribune.
This was the same spirit that inspired Manhattan philanthropist Carol Suchman to buy an entire toy store and donate its contents to underprivileged children earlier this month.
The mother of three has preferred to donate anonymously in the past, but this year agreed to go public to inspire generosity in others.
"I know everyone can use a gift around the holidays,"Ms. Suchman told the NY 1 News.