The Red Kettle Promise


Back in 1891, Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner for San Francisco’s many poor. He had one major hurdle to overcome: How would he pay for the food?

He lay awake nights, worrying and praying about how he would find the funds to fulfill his commitment to feeding the city’s most destitute. From his days as a sailor in England, the captain remembered a large pot, called a “Simpson’s Pot,” into which passersby would toss charitable donations.

The next day, Captain McFee placed a similar pot at Oakland Ferry Landing at the foot of Market Street in San Francisco. Beside the pot, he placed a sign that read, “Keep the Pot Boiling.” He soon had the money to make sure people in need were properly fed at Christmas.
Captain McFee’s kettle idea launched the Red Kettle tradition that has spread not only throughout the United States, but all across the world.

Today, public contributions to the kettles enable The Salvation Army to bring the spirit of Christmas to people who would otherwise be forgotten – to the aged and lonely, the ill, the inmates of jails and other institutions, the poor and less fortunate.  Funds raised in Red Kettles support our programs throughout the year.

Here is a moving story shared by one of our Red Kettle ringers:


A woman stopped at my kettle as she was leaving Kroger.  She said she had some money as she searched and searched in her purse.  Finally, as she pulled out a twenty dollar bill, she said, “this is all I have but I have to give it to you.”  After I thanked her very, very much, she told me why.  Several years ago at Christmas time she was in town to visit her dying mother in the hospital, she went to a store one night and there was a red kettle bell ringer out front.  It was a perfect Christmas scene…night time, snow falling, Salvation Army bell ringer.  As she put her money in the kettle that night, she made a silent promise to herself in honor of her mother.  She promised to never, ever pass a red kettle again without putting in money.  On Saturday morning, all she had was a twenty, and she gladly kept her promise.


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