First National Bank Alaska (FNBA) Soldotna branch manager Charlie Weimer wanted to underscore the importance of being generous to the Salvation Army this season when you see the traditional Kettles and hear the bells ringing in familiar shopping locations, so he wrote out a big check and stuffed into a Kettle, "Now is the time of year the Kettles are out and we see them at Fred Myers and Wal-Mart and various other places around town and we wanted to kick start the drive this year so we found $1,500 to donate to the Salvation Army effort which always has a great outreach in our community," said Weimer.
Weimer says he'll be joining Mike Sweeney and other Rotarians this weekend ringing those Kettle bells, "We've had a friendly competition for years between the Kenai, Kenai River, and Soldotna Rotary Clubs for bragging rights for the coming year and the right to keep the bell trophy at their club's meeting place. It's a lot of fun and another way that we practice Service Above Self while spreading the message that a little goes a long way so if you have a few coins in your pocket as you pass the kettle or are shopping with a child let them put the coins in the kettle and feel the joy of giving back to their community and helping those who are in hard times," added Weimer.
According to Envoy Craig Fanning with the Kenai Salvation Army the Kettle Drive is their major fund raiser for the entire year, "These funds will go toward toys and gifts from our angel trees at Fred Myer and Safeway in Kenai and purchase food for our Christmas baskets that we'll be giving away to between five and six hundred families this year," he said. Rotarians are not the only volunteers that "stand kettle" Fanning says it takes more than 1,200 volunteer hours this time of year, "At Christmas time is when we need the majority of our volunteers and not just at the kettles, we need volunteers for other things we do such as the gifts for the children of inmates at Wildwood in addition to needing toy shoppers for the Toy & Joy shop, people to put together food basket. We need volunteers year round but especially during the holidays, an hour of time is worth as much as a hundred dollar check to us," added Fanning.
Fanning says that the turnout for the annual Salvation Army Thanksgiving Day dinner underscores the growing needs in our community, "We usually have about 80 folks join us for dinner and we can send them home with leftovers, this year we doubled that and it was our largest group ever with nearly 200 meals being served. About 30 Soldotna Rotary volunteers came out bright and early Thanksgiving morning and did all the cooking and it was a real blessing, this was the first year ever though that we actually ran out of food, but everyone had a wonderful meal," he said. For more information about volunteering for the Salvation Army or to apply for holiday assistance stop by the Salvation Army Family Service office next to the thrift store in Kenai or call 283-4035.