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10 Reasons to be a Volunteer Bell Ringer this Christmas!

by Emily Alvarado
Sign up to be a volunteer bell ringer this Christmas!

We need you this Red Kettle season

This year’s annual Red Kettle campaign starts November 26th and we need you to be a volunteer bell ringer! Red Kettles have been a trademark of the Salvation Army for more than 100 years. Christmas shopping wouldn’t be the same without the greeting of a Salvation Army bell ringer. It’s one of the many traditions that make Christmas special – for us, and for those who will benefit when we drop our donation in the Red Kettle. Learn more about how you can get involved here.

10 Reasons you should be a Bell Ringer this Christmas

 1. It’s fun! This is a great way to celebrate the holiday season. You get to be right in the midst of the holiday bustle. Get creative – dress up, sing songs, bring your friends!

2. You’ll spread Christmas cheer. The Red Kettle bell is an iconic sound of the season. You’ll put people in the Christmas spirit! If you’re up for it, you can even use the time to check caroling off your list of festivities.

3. You’ll be part of changing lives. The Salvation Army in Austin provides food, clothing, shelter and other social services to those in need. Last year the Salvation Army served more than 400,000 people – that’s about 1,100 a day.

4. The money you raise directly impacts your community. All donations made in Austin stay in Austin. The Salvation Army is the largest provider of basic needs services to those experiencing homelessness in Williamson and Travis Counties. By helping raise funds through a Red Kettle, you’re a neighbor helping neighbors.

5. It’s easy! No experience required. It takes as little as two hours on a Saturday. Sign up here!

6. It’s the perfect opportunity to wear a tacky Christmas sweater. After hanging in your closet all year, it’s time for the annual debut. Dressing up makes bell ringing more fun, and might get some extra smiles out of Christmas shoppers.

7. “Make new friends, and keep the old.” You’ll get to meet lots of new people as you invite them to donate to your red kettle. Add to the fun by asking friends and family to ring a bell with you. You can even make it a new tradition!

8. Channel your competitive side. For you goal-oriented types, it’s easy to see how your work is paying off as your Red Kettle fills up! See how many people you can convince to give to your Red Kettle.

9. Take advantage of the cool winter air! It doesn’t stick around for long. Dust off those winter coats and sip on some cider or hot cocoa.

10. Be part of a legacyThe Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign has been a Christmas tradition since 1891. Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee set out a kettle to raise funds to feed the hungry in San Francisco. Now Red Kettles can be found all over the world in places like Japan, Chile and countries in Europe.

Ring a bell for Red Kettle this Christmas!

Red Kettle Season is Almost Here!

by Emily Alvarado

Ring a bell for Red Kettle this Christmas!

Red Kettle 2014

The 2014 Red Kettle campaign kicks off soon. It begins November 26th and goes through Christmas Eve.

This year marks the 124th year of The Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign. Last year donors across the country gave almost $136 million, which provided more than 30 million people with food, shelter and social services. Donors in Austin raised $229,000, which helped serve more than 400,000 people in Travis and Williamson Counties.

Holiday donations make up the majority of funds used to provide services to people in Austin year round. Red Kettles make change happen, so this year the Salvation Army needs your help.

Four Ways to Get Involved

1. Drop a donation in one of the Salvation Army’s Red Kettles at stores or companies across Austin between November 26th and Christmas Eve.

2. Sign up to be a volunteer Bell Ringer! Make a difference by giving just two hours on a Saturday. You can sign up with friends and family, and throw on your favorite ugly Christmas sweater! Check out our bell ringer page for more information.

3. Spread the word! Tell people why you’re giving to a Red Kettle this Christmas. Use the hashtag #RedKettleReason. See what others are saying, and join the conversation at RedKettleReason.org.

4. Host your own Red Kettle – online! Use email and social media to invite friends and family to donate. You can sign up individually or with a team. Start your online Kettle now: OnlineRedKettle.org.

Salvation Army Red Kettle


Roxanne Strong at The Salvation Army Austin

The Salvation Army Gave Roxanne a Place to Start

by Mary Rosewood

“I’m just so grateful to the Lord. I’m grateful to The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army gave me a place to start.”

Roxanne Strong at The Salvation Army Austin - A Place to Start

“Salvation Army, where we’re doing the most good. How may I direct your call?”

Roxanne cheerfully answers the phone at the downtown Austin shelter with these words. When a person in crisis walks through our shelter doors asking for help, Roxanne is the first calm, caring person they meet at The Salvation Army. She stays busy: filling out paperwork for new clients entering the shelter, creating badges for them, answering questions, providing directions, giving out sack lunches, handing over the clipboard for laundry sign-up.

“I am proud to have this real, normal job. I work for The Salvation Army, Monday through Friday from six to three,” Roxanne says.

“I love my job. I LOVE it. I love it,” she adds. “I’m right in the hub of the building. It seems like everybody comes to me for all kinds of help. I try to encourage clients. My experience might be the one thing that helps that person or gives them some strength to go on.”

Grateful for Her Job

Roxanne does not take having a job for granted.

“It was the bottom of bottom” is how Roxanne describes her life in 2007 when she arrived at the shelter after spending ten years as a homeless drug addict.

At age 15, Roxanne began smoking marijuana. Within two years she was using cocaine and speed, then smoking crack.

As her addiction tightened its grip, Roxanne walked out on her six children, thinking that she was protecting them. But this decision led to years of living in cheap hotels, sometimes on the street, then in the woods.

Roxanne struggled to be sober. She tried different treatment centers. She attended Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Cocaine Anonymous. The programs would work for a while, but she just wasn’t getting what she needed.

One day she ran into her now-grown son; unsure of what his mother might do, he stayed in the car and showed Roxanne her one-month-old granddaughter through the window.

“I had been praying and praying and praying for God to help me find some kind of direction to get out of that mess,” Roxanne says. “And at that moment, I felt like that was my open door.”

Roxanne did not want her new granddaughter to experience what she had put her children through. She felt a strong need to go somewhere to straighten out her life so she could be a good grandmother.

Starting Over

“Literally, I just jumped on a bus,” Roxanne recalls. “I didn’t know where I was going, I had no clue I would end up at The Salvation Army. I had nothing with me, no clothes – nothing. I just kind of ended up there. I thought The Salvation Army was just some place you ate. When I got there, that’s when everything began to change for me.”

Over the next few months doors opened one after the other. Roxanne followed her caseworker’s suggestion to volunteer in The Salvation Army kitchen. Soon she was being paid for this work, and then promoted: dishwasher, kitchen assistant, cook. She hadn’t done honest work for sixteen years; she started to feel like a human being again.

“All I had to do was open myself up and be willing to do the next right thing,” Roxanne says. “Through The Salvation Army and through God, my entire life changed in a matter of months, I mean rapidly.”

Today Roxanne works as the ground floor receptionist at the downtown Austin shelter, a job she loves because she is able to share her story of hope with people coming in off the street.

Roxanne Strong interviewed by Lauren Petrowski of FOX 7 - A Place to Start Over

Roxanne had the opportunity to share her story with Lauren Petrowski of FOX 7 Austin last year.

The Blessing of Her Family

Now her children are in her life again, and she finds delight in spending time with her granddaughter. Her second grandchild was born in October, and Roxanne is delighted to be able to spend time with and enjoy her grandbabies.

“It is truly God’s miracle that my life is where it is today,” Roxanne says.

You can help people like Roxanne with your donation to The Salvation Army today. Click here to make a donation.

“What I am today, and who I am today, and what I have today has nothing to do with me, other than being willing to be open to what God has for me, what God’s plans are for me, and just stay sober. God is the one who keeps me sober, and he has allowed my life to be where it is today. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m just so grateful to the Lord. I’m grateful to The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army gave me a place to start.”


Thanks to freelance writer, Mary Rosewood, for writing this story. Mary enjoys capturing the stories of memorable people and events. Find her website at rainydayrose.com .

Be a Salvation Army Bell Ringer

Ring a bell at The Salvation Army red kettle

Volunteer to be a Salvation Army Bell Ringer this Christmas

You can help a lot of people simply by being a bell ringer. Every day people come to The Salvation Army for assistance in meeting the emergencies of life. By bell ringing at a Salvation Army “Red Kettle”, you can help raise the funds that are needed to provide these necessary services at Christmas and throughout the New Year. All donations stay right here in Travis and Williamson Counties, which make us simply neighbors helping neighbors ~ 365 days a year.

With as little as two hours of your time and the wonderful support from stores in Austin, Round Rock, Georgetown and Cedar Park, you can be part of our Salvation Army Bell Ringing Team! You can be a volunteer bell ringer on Saturdays from November 26 through December 24, or groups may sign up for weekdays or Saturdays at the following locations: The Domain, Barton Creek Square Mall, Lakeline Mall, Sam’s Club or Hobby Lobby at La Frontera, and Wolf Ranch in Georgetown.

Ring with a Group – Your Family, Church, Organization or Company

Encourage “Red Kettle Days” for your business, civic organization, church or neighborhood and make a difference in the lives of real people in our community. You can also be a virtual bell ringer and host your own on-line red kettle as a business or individual.

Virtual Bell Learn More copy

Back this year by popular demand are red kettle sponsorships where individuals, businesses or organizations can sponsor a Red Kettle for a day or more. You can also use our Paper Kettle program at the point of sale for your business and offer your customers a convenient way to donate to The Salvation Army, especially during the peak holiday season.

Sign up Today to be a Bell Ringer!

If you are interested in volunteer as a bell ringer, please see our red kettle volunteer opportunities or email Donna_Clendennen@USS.SalvationArmy.org. Volunteer bell ringer shifts will be added soon, and if you don’t see a shift on the volunteer page that works for you, check back soon because we will be adding more opportunities.

Recipe for Biscuitwiches for disaster

Try this Delicious Recipe from our Disaster Services Cookbook


Today we are sharing with you this blog post from The Salvation Army USA blog with a few local notes. Enjoy!

Disasters can strike suddenly, anytime and anywhere. While each event is unique and requires its own special response, the core of The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) program is targeted to meet the most basic needs such as food and shelter.

In the midst of almost every disaster you can spot a Salvation Army “canteen” (a “kitchen on wheels”) which provides and serves up to 1,500 meals a day for disaster survivors, first responders, and emergency personnel.

As part of Disaster Preparedness Month, we would like to share a delicious recipe from The Salvation Army’s EDS Cookbook.

Nothing says comfort more than a hardy breakfast. In the aftermath of a disaster, the relief of a hot familiar meal can help give the energy and comfort needed to get back on your feet. It’s hard to go wrong with eggs and cheese served between a warm biscuit!

Cheese ‘N Egg Bisciutwiches

6 eggs

1 TBSP   milk

1 TBSP chopped green pepper

1 American cheese slice

10-oz can buttermilk flakey biscuits

1/8 tsp pepper if desired

Heat oven to 400°. Prepare biscuits according to package directions. In medium bowl, combine egg, milk, green pepper and pepper; beat well. In large skillet, melt butter; stir in egg mixture. Cook until set but still moist, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Cut cheese into 20 triangles. Place biscuits on ungreased cookie sheet. Split each biscuit in half crosswise. Spoon eggs onto bottom ½ of biscuit. Top with 2 cheese triangles; replace top ½ of biscuit. Bake at 400° for 2-3 min. Or until cheese is melted. Serve right away.


September is Disaster Preparedness Month

September is disaster preparedness month. Is your family ready?

Governor Rick Perry has declared September as Disaster Preparedness Month in Texas. This coincides with National Preparedness Month across the United States.

Disasters in Texas

The Lone Star State encounters at least one major disaster nearly every calendar year. Texans regularly face floods, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes and other severe weather. September is traditionally dangerous hurricane season along the Gulf Coast. It is time to get prepared.

We encourage everyone to assemble a disaster supply kit of important emergency supplies including a first aid kit, a NOAA Weather Radio or battery-operated radio, flashlight, medication, non-perishable food items, and bottled water. Be aware of where the nearest storm shelter is located, know where you and loved ones will go if an evacuation is necessary, and develop an emergency plan for communicating with family and friends.

The Salvation Army in Times of Disaster

The Salvation Army of Austin has an active emergency disaster services team in Williamson County – the only fully volunteer-led team in the State of Texas. We are working to build an active team in Travis County. We are currently recruiting volunteers for this team. Click here to learn how you can join our active disaster response team and make a difference for others during times of disaster. Join our team today.

For the latest emergency disaster services news, please visit www.disaster.salvationarmyusa.org and follow latest updates on Twitter @SalArmyEDS. Interested parties may also visit www.salvationarmyAUSTIN.org, Facebook at www.facebook.com/SalvationArmyAustin, and follow us on Twitter @SalArmyAustin

For more information about Disaster Preparedness Month, please visit the following websites:

DoD Plays Key Role in Disaster Response, Official Says

TDEM website


The Salvation Army Family Store sign

Behind the scenes of the Family Stores

The Salvation Army Family Store sign

by Rebecca Reap, Intern
Photos by Teodora Pogonot

You’ve probably seen or heard of The Salvation Army Family Stores. You may have even shopped there to find pieces for a do-it-yourself project or costume. However, I doubt you know all that goes on behind the scenes of the Family Stores and the impact you have when you shop there!

As an intern here at The Salvation Army this summer, I toured the Family Store Warehouse and Adult Rehabilitation Center. It was an eye opening experience that showed me not only all the work that goes into each item being sold at the Family Stores but also the lives that are shaped and changed by every purchase.

Our tour began at the Adult Rehabilitation Center. Prior to this visit, I had no knowledge this Center existed let alone had anything to do with The Salvation Army and its Family Stores. I quickly learned it has everything to do with it! The Adult Rehabilitation Center is a center for men who have chosen to seek help in overcoming their addictions. On our tour we visited the dorm-like rooms where the men live during their treatment.

The men at the Adult Rehabilitation Center sleep in dorm-like rooms.

The men at the Adult Rehabilitation Center sleep in dorm-like rooms.

We stopped by classrooms where clients attend life skills classes and the library filled with a variety of books and a supply of blank greeting cards for them to write to their loved ones. Our tour guide planned to introduce us to a social worker, counselor, and chaplain who worked at the center but all three were in the midst of their duties, providing guidance to their clients.

Dining room of the Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in Austin

Dining room of the Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in Austin

Along the tour we visited the recreation room and dining area where we saw men busy at work, cleaning and cooking. Our guide explained to us that part of the program includes work therapy and these clients’ duties are to maintain these areas within the center. Outside, we saw where most clients are assigned to participate in work therapy – The Family Store Warehouse.

The Salvation Army Family Store Warehouse on South Congress in Austin.

The Salvation Army Family Store Warehouse on South Congress in Austin

Some load and unload items, sort and divide by “good condition, poor condition, needs repairs” and others inside the warehouse actually clean and refurbish items that are delivered.

I had assumed that when the community dropped off items, they were just sent to the nearest store but in fact, each item goes through a series of processes to make it as new and improved as possible. Some of the men working there rebuild chairs and furniture as well as polish and upholster it. Others repair bikes, electronics and jewelry, sorting and prioritizing sale of these items.

It was amazing to see all the people here, working together to build a better life for themselves and taking pride in their work, knowing that every item sold will go to helping them and others conquer their addictions. We ended our tour in a Salvation Army Family Store on South Congress Avenue.


Clothing in the Salvation Army Family Store on South Congress Avenue in Austin

Clothing in the Salvation Army Family Store on South Congress Avenue in Austin

It was quiet, shoppers strolling by, their eyes scanning the shelves and racks. The shoppers were unaware that every one of these items and their purchases are saving another person from a life of addiction.

My passion for The Salvation Army and my own work here has grown immensely since my visit. Not only will I be shopping at the Family Stores now that I know about the treasures inside, but, like the men at the ARC, I will take pride in what I do and remember that it is about more than just a store or a sale. It’s about helping another person and making a better life.


Learning to Give at a Young Age

Since the age of six, Kayla has been utilizing her birthday celebrations to collect gifts for charity.

Kayla is a part of the “small but growing group of children and teenagers who are engaging in charitable giving… at a time when most children their age are focused on sports, music or just themselves.” (Sullivan, The New York Times).

A few weeks ago Kayla Rogers celebrated her 12th birthday. Just like most kids her age, Kayla threw a party with friends, games, and gifts. However, the gifts her friends brought were not for her.

Kayla chose to collect and donate items to The Salvation Army Summer Camp Supply Drive. After hearing about the drive to help local children of homelessness and poverty from a family friend, Kayla prepared her party invitations, including a description of The Salvation Army, the purpose of the supply drive, and a list of items to be donated. Kayla, with the help of her friends, collected a number of sleeping bags, blankets, washcloths, toothbrushes, shampoo and deodorant, all to be donated to The Salvation Army. In the past, Kayla has donated items to the Williamson County Animal Shelter and a medical mission trip to Honduras in which her father and sister participated.


According to Paul Sullivan‘s article, “Learning Young the Gift of Helping Others,” most times, the desire to give stems from family and parents as is the case with Kayla.

Kayla’s inspiration to serve others began with her sister, who, as well as participating in the aforementioned mission trip, was a volunteer for the Georgetown Ride On Center for Kids (R.O.C.K.) which provides therapies and activities for disabled persons through interaction with horses. Kayla learned that there are others who do not have the same things as her and she wanted them to make a difference for them. This idea led to Kayla’s decision to forego birthday presents for the past six years in order to support others in need.

As well as being active in the community, Kayla enjoys participating in the Gateway College Preparatory Volleyball team, Honor Society, and UIL Oral Reading. In addition to collecting items for The Salvation Army, Kayla celebrated her 12th birthday by the pool with friends and playing kickball and volleyball. Kayla plans to maintain her birthday tradition in the years to come and continue serving both animals and humans alike, just like The Salvation Army’s mission to serve without discrimination.


The items Kayla donated are with the kids at summer camp right now! Thanks to her donations, they are able to have a fun camp experience this summer and from the looks of it they taking full advantage of the opportunity! Thank you Kayla for your help and we hope you continue Doing the Most Good.

Sullivan, Paul. “Learning Young the Gift of Helping Others.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 04 July 2014. Web. 14 July 2014.

Jill with Colonel Dorris Banner

Volunteer of the Month Jill Harrison

Jill with Colonel Dorris

Jill Harrison has led the Operation Facelift effort with dedication and is committed to making our shelter a more comforting place for those we serve.

Our July volunteer of the month, Jill Harrison, stepped right up when she saw a call for volunteers to help with Operation Facelift at The Salvation Army’s downtown Social Service Center.  Operation Facelift is an on-going project to refresh and update our emergency shelter which houses close to 5,000 men, women, and children annually. Jill quickly saw that the dining room which serves almost 350,000 meals a year was in need of a makeover. She took the dining room along with our Chapel on as a personal project.

We interviewed Jill about why she volunteers. Click this link to watch the video.


Thanks to Jill, the dining room and Chapel now have a fresh coat of paint, artwork, decor, new lighting, and a home-like feel. Our clients, along with staff, love the uplifting change and appreciate Jill’s hard work! She continues to act as an interior design consultant for us on other Operation Facelift projects, all while juggling her very busy career at Jill Harrison Interior Designs.

If you are interested in becoming involved with Operation Facelift, click here for more information.

Salvation Army volunteer Cindy-Wells-with-Catholic-Charities-worker

Local Volunteers Minister as Salvation Army Services Requested on Texas Border

Salvation Army volunteer Cindy-Wells-with-Catholic-Charities-worker on Texas border

Salvation Army volunteer Cindy Wells serves alongside Catholic Charities worker

Randy-O'Dell-serving-soup on Texas border

Randy O’Dell serves hot, nutritious soup to immigrant families

Meeting Human Needs in His Name on the Texas Border

The mission statement of The Salvation Army clearly states the organization’s commitment to “meet human needs in His name without discrimination.” This practical ministry of The Salvation Army is in operation as volunteers and staff work to provide emergency assistance to immigrants who have crossed the Texas border.

At the request of Border Patrol and several other public agencies, The Salvation Army is working closely with a number of VOAD partners (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) to ensure that humanitarian needs are being addressed for families and individuals who have been processed by the Border Patrol and are awaiting transportation to their various destinations. Food, clean clothing, hygiene products, showers, and other services are being made available in the towns of Brownsville, Harlingen, McAllen, Laredo and El Paso, communities where The Salvation Army has historically served for decades.

Williamson County disaster volunteer Sharon O'Dell dishes up fruit for immigrant families in McAllen, on the Texas border.

Williamson County disaster volunteer Sharon O’Dell dishes up fruit for immigrant families in McAllen.

It is estimated that up to 500 individuals are being served daily on the Texas border with the greatest concentration being in McAllen, Laredo and El Paso. The Austin disaster services team out of Williamson County, which is active in local and state disasters, has been deployed to serve in McAllen. Salvation Army volunteers from the Austin area are serving alongside volunteers and staff from other relief agencies, feeding nutritious soup to 160 to 200 individuals each day.

“The Salvation Army is working with both government and partner agencies to provide emergency support, basic necessities, and relief in South West Texas to immigrant children and families,” said Major Richard McConniel, Divisional Secretary of The Salvation Army, Texas Division. “All around the world people come to The Salvation Army at their times of greatest need for help. The dynamic crisis along our country’s border is yet another call for our staff and volunteers to live out our mission, to meet human needs in the name of Christ without discrimination.”

Donations supporting the work of The Salvation Army on the Texas border can be made by mailing a check to PO Box 1000, Austin, TX, 78767, with the notation “Disaster – TX Border Assistance” or by credit card at www.donate.salvationarmyusa.org/uss/texas-border-assistance. For information on how to join volunteer disaster services team in Austin, visit SalvationArmyAustin.org.

The Salvation Army in Austin serves more than 20,000 men, women and children a year through its twelve locations in Travis and Williamson Counties, providing basic needs, shelter, employment services and rehabilitation. Find us at Facebook.com/SalvationArmyAustin or @SalArmyAustin.