Cities' officials ring bells for needy at Kettle Kick Off

Mayors, civic leaders help Salvation Army toward $350K goal

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Want to ring those bells?

To volunteer with the Salvation Army in Clark County, fill out an application online at Salvation Army. Click on “holiday assistance,” and then “Red Kettle Campaign.” Or call 360-892-9050.

The holiday tradition of Salvation Army bell ringers had a different rollout in Clark County on Thursday, with the first annual "Kettle Kick Off" featuring mayors and other civic leaders at Fred Meyer stores.

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt, who challenged other mayors in the county to join him standing guard at a red kettle, spent two hours at the Grand Central Fred Meyer. Ridgefield Mayor Ron Onslow, meanwhile, was stationed at the Salmon Creek store while Camas Mayor Scott Higgins and Washougal Mayor Sean Guard were at the Fisher's Landing store.

Jeff Carothers, mayor of the Yacolt Town Council, did a shift at the Battle Ground Fred Meyer, said Steve Rusk of the Salvation Army.

Prior to Thursday's official kickoff, a few locations had kettles out, Rusk said. Between now and Dec. 24, volunteers will be collecting money at more than 60 kettles around the county, with a goal of raising a total of $350,000.

"We are blessed to be associated with the Christmas season," Rusk said, but the money raised supports year-round programs such as emergency food assistance and other humanitarian aid.

Friendly competition

Leavitt had wanted a mayors-versus-county commissioners challenge to see who could bring in the most donations. That didn't pan out.

So Kelly Love Parker, president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, stepped up — in red-and-green-striped knee socks and green elf shoes — on Thursday to be Leavitt's friendly foe. She was stationed at the other main entrance to the Grand Central store.

She said chamber board members were happy to help, and it took her mere minutes to find enough people to fill Thursday's shifts.

Leavitt was joined by councilors Jack Burkman and Bart Hansen, while councilors Larry Smith and Bill Turlay did morning duties and other Vancouver city employees took turns manning the entrance.

Leavitt said he was recognized by about a half-dozen shoppers and received a few congratulatory words about his Nov. 5 re-election, but he doesn't think he collected as much money as last year, when he, Burkman and Hansen took a weekend shift later in the holiday season at Westfield Vancouver mall.

"People were more generous and receptive to us ringing bells," Leavitt said.

Thursday's sunny weather didn't help set a festive mood, he added.

"It feels like Thanksgiving in California," he said.