By STEVEN NALLEY
When the Starkville Salvation Armyâs 2011 Red Kettle campaign began, manager Betty âB.J.â Andol thought $22,000 was a reasonable goal.
âEverybody looked at me in horror,â Andol said. âThey were like, âAre you insane?â Yeah, I really am, but with the man upstairs and the community weâve got â and Starkville is an awesome community with awesome people â we can do it.â
On Tuesday at the Salvation Army Family Thrift Store, Andol and other Starkville Salvation Army associates presented awards to those who led the way for the kettle campaign to raise $40,683.74.
Andol said it was the most successful kettle campaign in the Starkville chapterâs history.
âI canât say âthank you, thank you, thank youâ enough,â Andol said to the award recipients. âI canât wait until next year. I figure, âHey, next year, yâall think $50,000?ââ
Suzzette McMillan, divisional service extension field representative for the Salvation Army, said the record-breaking intake spoke volumes about Starkville citizensâ generosity.
âIt says that the people of Starkville love their community and they want to help,â McMillan said. âThe money will save so many lives ... with energy assistance, housing assistance, water, gas (and) utilities. The more money, the more people we can assist. Being able to change a life, thatâs the greatest gift we can give back to the community.â
Southwire placed first in the Salvation Armyâs Kettle Bell Awards, raising $9,826.33. The Starkville Police Department came in second with $7,413.69, and the Oktibbeha County Sheriffâs Department came in third with $1,850,00.
The Starkville chapter also gave plaque awards to other major contributors, starting with the Mississippi State University football team and head coach Dan Mullen, who raised $541.75 at Walmart and $699.32 at Kroger for a total of $1,241.07. Other plaque award recipients included Starkville Community Theatre, Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman, Starkville Fire Department, Oktibbeha County School District, Walmart Store Manager Brett King and Kroger Store Manager Don White.
Southwire Plant Manager Dan Bickford said this is the fourth time the company has won Starkvilleâs Kettle Bell Awards, and Southwire has been especially focused on its work with the Red Kettle campaign since 2007 and 2008.
âWe had quite a number of people in the plant who participated in ringing the kettle,â Bickford said. âThere was a lot of excitement in the plant when we found out that we had won the Golden Bell. Weâve been kind of upping it. We realize thereâs some friendly competition between some entities here in town, and we keep it friendly. Weâre not in it to win the bell; weâre in it to try to help the community.â
Southwire has also coordinated with the Starkville Salvation Army on other occasions, Bickford said, including a partnership for storm relief after the April 27, 2011 tornadoes.
âWe brought a Southwire Project Gift tractor trailer in and collected goods at Walmart for a period of days, and then we partnered with Salvation Army and distributed those goods to people out at Webster County,â Bickford said. âThey helped us do the distribution that day and get the word out.â
Bickford said Southwireâs Starkville plant also has liaisons to the Salvation Army in Larry Moore, a supervisor at Southwire who is also chairman of the Starkville Salvation Army chapter, and Mona Childs, an ISO coordinator at Southwire who is also the Starkville chapterâs secretary. Childs said she was thankful for Bickfordâs support as well.
âWe have a wonderful plant manager,â Childs said. âHeâs always supportive in whatever we do.â
SFD Chief Rodger Mann said this year was his departmentâs first time participating in the Red Kettle campaign. He said administrators and family of the fire department developed a strong interest in the program, and the department hopes to develop a stronger presence next year.
âWeâll bring more troops with us next year,â Mann said. âWeâll have more people prepared to participate. We look forward to doing it next year. It was actually a privilege. Once we got to ringing bells, we found that we enjoyed it.â