Although the Salvation Army's famous red kettles normally don't come out until the Christmas season, the evangelical organization has brought them out earlier this year in wake of one of the most devastating natural disasters in U.S. history.
According to the Associated Press, the Salvation Army was working Friday to deliver kettles to businesses to collect money for food, water and other supplies that are desperately needed on the Gulf coast.
"They know what a red kettle means to people," Salvation Army spokeswoman Annette Bauer told AP. "People know that a Salvation Army kettle is a pretty safe donation place.¡¨
With dozens of businesses requesting the kettles, the Salvation Army is scrambling to find kettles and kettle stands for all the businesses interested in helping. Businesses are also sending volunteers to work at the Salvation Army's several phone banks.
Bauer told AP that fundraising for the victims of Hurricane Katrina has been more successful than for any other disaster in recent memory.
"It's an unprecedented response,¡¨ she commented. ¡§It's been more than 9/11 and the tsunami put together.¡¨
The spokeswoman said people should expect to see the red kettles at upcoming Minnesota Twins and Vikings games, concerts and other events.
Meanwhile, the Salvation Army continues to help bring aid and comfort directly to those affected by Hurricane Katrina, launching one of the largest emergency disaster services relief efforts in the organization¡¦s 125-year history. Mobile kitchens and canteens serving in the Gulf Coast region are focused on providing the most precious commodities needed right now ¡V food and water.
¡§The victims just want basic life sustenance. They¡¦re in shock. Everything they¡¦ve worked for all of their lives is gone,¡¨ said Major Dalton Cunningham, divisional commander for The Salvation Army in the Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi Division.
Meanwhile, the region-wide gasoline shortage has created a crisis of its own.
¡§Our canteens are providing much needed food and water to the victims, but we¡¦re running out of gas and there simply is just no gas available south of Hattiesburg, Mississippi,¡¨ Cunningham said.
According to the Salvation Army, relief efforts are extending throughout the entire southeastern United States. More than 150,000 Katrina refugees are receiving shelter, food and water at Salvation Army facilities from Texas to North Carolina. The mobile kitchens are capable of serving more than 500,000 meals per day.
¡§We ask that everyone everywhere pray for vision and wisdom for us to serve people the way God wants us to serve them, that the resources and people will be available, and that we can get into the affected areas to serve,¡¨ Cunningham said, in a statement released by the Salvation Army. ¡§This is going to be the largest response to a disaster in our history.¡¨
The Salvation Army asks people who want to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina to visit www.salvationarmyusa.org or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY or visit any Wal-Mart or Sam¡¦s Club. Monetary donations are needed to meet the victims¡¦ most immediate needs. A $100 donation will feed a family of four for two days, provide two cases of drinking water and one household cleanup kit, containing brooms, mops, buckets and cleaning supplies.