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By MATT CRANE
The charitable sound of bells ringing are once again filling the Starkville air as the Starkville Salvation Army begins its 2012 Red Kettle Campaign 9 a.m. today at Kroger.
Campaign coordinator Debra Austin said volunteers will ring bells outside of Kroger and Walmart today through Christmas Eve for this year‚Äôs Christmas campaign.
‚ÄúLast year, the Starkville Salvation Army had the most successful campaign in its history, receiving over $42,000 in donations,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúLast year‚Äôs success was completely due to the volunteers, and the participation is greatly appreciated.‚ÄĚ
A former Salvation Army board member, Austin said she stepped down from her position to focus solely on the Red Kettle Campaign, a yearly event used to raise money for those in need.
‚ÄúThis money is used for things throughout the year for those in Starkville and Oktibbeha County,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúSince the economy has been so bad, these donations can help out with not only just providing meals, but helping with bills and even temporary housing.‚ÄĚ
Austin said Friday‚Äôs kick off will feature Salvation Army reporters along with special guest Mississippi State University football coach Dan Mullen.
‚ÄúThe purpose in getting Mullen is that he believes in giving back to the community he lives in,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúHe is wonderful about recruiting the football players to ring during the campaign season which is always a special treat.‚ÄĚ
Austin said those volunteering during the Red Kettle Campaign include individuals, groups, churches, clubs and factories like Southwire, which has raised the most money each year.
‚ÄúI feel really excited to see that so many people care about meeting the needs of those in our community,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúThey do it because they have the same passion that we do for this ministry.‚ÄĚ
Austin said volunteering to ring bells at the designated locations in Starkville pushes individuals and groups to become more socially aware. The core mission of the Salvation Army, she said, is something she holds near and dear to her heart.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs about getting out of those comfort zones and doing something to help someone in need,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs really the reason why I do this, to please God because we should care for each other and love each other.‚ÄĚ
Austin said the diversity in both volunteers and those receiving help continues to encourage her charitable mission.
‚ÄúI love it because it makes me realize that our community is inspired by one mind and one goal,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúThis money helps anyone who needs it, no matter of color or religious background or differences.‚ÄĚ
Along with director B.J. Andol, Austin said she is appreciative of every individual that donates time and money to the Salvation Army in its quest to aid those in the Starkville and Oktibbeha County area throughout the year.
‚ÄúTogether, we can make a difference in Starkville,‚ÄĚ she said.