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Chattanooga’s Salvation Army rings bells at Christmas kickoff Nov. 4

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Chattanooga Salvation Army’s Charline Dowell volunteers to help children receive bicycles for Christmas. Contributed photo

As shoppers walk from store to store inside Hamilton Place Mall Nov. 4, bells will begin ringing simultaneously at 6:45 p.m. from Center Stage. The sound is meant to remind people that Christmas time is coming and people are in need.

“It’s a 100-year tradition,” said Chattanooga Salvation Army Director of Marketing and Development Kimberly George. “The Christmas carol ‘Silver Bells, Silver Bells,’ was written about the Salvation Army bells.”

The nonprofit partners with local celebrities to ring the bells each year. Salvation Army 2011 Christmas chairman, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, will lead the bell ringing effort as local TV and radio celebrities join in.

During the kickoff ceremony, George said Coppinger will donate the first gift into a Salvation Army red kettle, challenging the community to give out of their pockets to the red kettles this holiday season.

After the bell ringing ceremony, the Jericho Brass Band will perform. Once the 30-minute ceremony is complete, mall patrons can stop by the Salvation Army Angel Tree to pick an angel to sponsor for Christmas. All angel gifts for children and senior citizens must be returned to an Angel Tree location by Dec. 4.

“In Christmas of 2010, we served 3,355 angels in the Chattanooga area,” said George. “We expect the number to be greater this year. The Salvation Army is concerned about fundraising efforts. So many people that donate to the Salvation Army are putting their lives back together after the April storm. We hope they recovered and are able to donate this holiday season.”

She said the giving theme this year is “Please Don’t Forget.”

“Throughout the Christmas season, we hope to have 100 different locations manned by volunteers,” said George. “All local Walmart stores, Northgate Mall, Hamilton Place Mall, Bradley Square Mall and Hobby Lobby stores will have bell ringers.”

Angel Trees will be located at Hamilton Place Mall, Northgate Mall and Bradley Square Mall in November.

“We ask people to give at minimum one outfit and two toys to an angel on the tree,” she said, referring to the paper angels that represent children which hang on the trees. “Sponsoring an angel is a great way to teach your children about charitable giving.”

George said a lot of adults have everything they need, so spouses could buy angel tree presents instead of gifts for one another.

“They can not only adopt an angel, but also check out a stocking or backpack to fill up for a child,” she said. “It’s a great group project to do with Sunday schools or classrooms.”

George said aside from donations, the Salvation Army needs bell ringers and angel tree volunteers.

SUPPORT THE EFFORT

To donate to the Chattanooga Salvation Army, visit the organization's website, call 1-800-SAL-ARMY or mail a donation to 822 McCallie Ave., Chattanooga, TN, 37403.

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