By CHELSEY POLLOCK
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- It’s almost that time of year again, and Derry Salvation Army lieutenants Chris and Kiley Williams are dusting off kettles and stands from storage to prepare for the Christmas season.
By the end of the week, a drove of Salvation Army bell ringers will begin manning posts across the greater Derry region asking for the charity of their neighbors.
And for the Derry Salvation Army, kettling is serious business.
“Others have been abound for 100 years and have endowments set up, but we’ve only been here for 10 years,” said Chris Williams Friday. “We haven’t built that up yet, so kettles are our base.”
Last year, the Derry Salvation Army brought in $251,000 from its kettle campaign and this year the group is budgeting for $200,000, with the hopes of raising above and beyond that amount to support charity and service programs all year long.
The Derry Salvation Army consistently raises more money than any other chapter in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont, said Pat James, of the Northern New England Division of the Salvation Army Friday.
“It shows that this community believes in the army and trusts our program,” James said at a kickoff event at Steve-N-James Tavern in Derry on Friday. “And it’s important to know that the money raised in these kettles helps in both the holidays and throughout the year.”
This year, 21 stands — manned by a mix of volunteers and paid workers — will be stationed outside grocery stores, liquor stores and popular holiday destinations in Derry, Londonderry, Windham, Salem and Plaistow.
And having the right people in the right location makes all the difference in the amount of money raised, Kiley Williams said.
“I really think a lot of it is who’s there because some people go as bumps on a log, but you have to have energy and talk to people and be friendly,” she said. “It’s all about customer service.”
In addition to the kettle campaign, the Salvation Army also encourages people from the community to sponsor local children and families in need through its Angel Tag Tree program.
Under the program, families with a demonstrated need can sign up to receive food items, clothing and gifts, which are then donated by businesses, groups and individuals in the community.
“People started calling in July saying, when can we sign up for Christmas assistance, and people are still calling us every day,” Chris Williams said.
So far, Kiley Williams said 86 families and 191 children are set to receive assistance this year. And she said it’s important to keep donations coming in through the holiday season, as people call for help right up to the day before Christmas.
“We don’t deny anyone, but when it comes to the end of December, sometimes we can’t guaranteewhatwemighthave,” she said. “But we do have some things left over from last year, so hopefully no one leaves with nothing.”
This year’s kettle campaign kicked off Friday with a community luncheon and honorary first donations from town officials.
But Chris Williams said the program is just getting started.
“Now is when we get to work and life begins,” he said.
To contact Chris and Kiley Williams about the kettle or Angel Tag campaigns, call 434-7790.