By STEVEN NALLEY
When the Starkville Salvation Army’s 2011 Red Kettle campaign began, manager Betty “B.J.” Andol thought $22,000 was a reasonable goal.
“Everybody looked at me in horror,” Andol said. “They were like, ‘Are you insane?’ Yeah, I really am, but with the man upstairs and the community we’ve got — and Starkville is an awesome community with awesome people — we can do it.”
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 chapter’s history.
“I can’t say ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’ enough,” Andol said to the award recipients. “I can’t wait until next year. I figure, ‘Hey, next year, y’all think $50,000?’”
Suzzette McMillan, divisional service extension field representative for the Salvation Army, said the record-breaking intake spoke volumes about Starkville citizens’ generosity.
“It says that the people of Starkville love their community and they want to help,” McMillan said. “The 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, that’s the greatest gift we can give back to the community.”
Southwire placed first in the Salvation Army’s Kettle Bell Awards, raising $9,826.33. The Starkville Police Department came in second with $7,413.69, and the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s 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 Starkville’s Kettle Bell Awards, and Southwire has been especially focused on its work with the Red Kettle campaign since 2007 and 2008.
“We had quite a number of people in the plant who participated in ringing the kettle,” Bickford said. “There was a lot of excitement in the plant when we found out that we had won the Golden Bell. We’ve been kind of upping it. We realize there’s some friendly competition between some entities here in town, and we keep it friendly. We’re not in it to win the bell; we’re in it to try to help the community.”
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.
“We 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,” Bickford said. “They helped us do the distribution that day and get the word out.”
Bickford said Southwire’s 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 chapter’s secretary. Childs said she was thankful for Bickford’s support as well.
“We have a wonderful plant manager,” Childs said. “He’s always supportive in whatever we do.”
SFD Chief Rodger Mann said this year was his department’s 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.
“We’ll bring more troops with us next year,” Mann said. “We’ll 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.”