Cheerful bell-ringers standing beside a red Salvation Army kettle outside a shop during the Christmas holidays may strike many as a uniquely American tradition, but the group’s roots are actually across the pond.
While the Civil War was gripping the American states, in London, an evangelical preacher named William Booth and his wife Catherine left the pulpit and took to the streets to fight for what they called “the lost souls” of London’s poor East Side residents, many of them homeless, organizing and training new enlistees in the fight under the banner “The Christian Mission.” Booth saw a written report that said “The Christian Mission is a volunteer army,” sparking an idea to change the name to the Salvation Army. They grew rapidly.
Their mission was brought to Houston in 1889 by Captain Hattie B. Savage and three other women, who formed their own band playing guitar, drum, banjo and accordion. Their mission in southeast Texas from their inception has been to spread to the Word of the Gospel and provide for the basic needs of people in His name without discrimination. Today the Salvation Army Greater Houston Area Command serves Harris, Montgomery and Fort Bend counties, providing housing, homeless, addiction recovery, services for youth, veterans and the elderly, disaster relief, a spiritual ministry and Christmas assistance through Angel Trees and community holiday meals.
Major Kent Davis, the Houston Area Commander, says while other locations may have trouble getting businesses to allow them to set up their red kettles outside, in Houston there are no such problems. What’s complicating his life is finding enough bell ringers. “It’s been difficult to get workers and volunteers to come out and help us with the kettles,” he tell NewsRadio 740 KTRH. He says the money they gather funds 18 facilities, including homeless shelters and boys and girls clubs. “That money stays here to help us continue to work and help to change lives of so many people,” Major Davis adds.
If you would like to volunteer or make a donation to the Houston Salvation Army, visit here.