The world’s tallest kettle

Super-sized kettle stands as a symbol of hope in Detroit

by Justin Grajek

The world’s tallest red kettle stands 56 feet tall and 24 feet wide. Its 26,000 LED lights wait to be illuminated as thousands of people stand ready in Detroit’s Cadillac Square. After a short introduction, the switch is flipped, and it lights up the night. Christmas music swells. The crowd cheers. The Christmas season is ushered in.

The Salvation Army of Metro Detroit’s annual Red Kettle Kickoff takes place in mid-November as part of the City of Detroit Tree Lighting Ceremony. With a plethora of activities like ice skating and carriage rides, hot chocolate giveaways and live entertainment, the festivities have become a tradition for many families.

During the kettle kickoff, performances have ranged from the Southeast, Mich., Adult Rehabilitation Center Gospel Singers, to the electro pop sensation Nuclassica to R & B artist Kem. Last year featured Live Band Karaoke Detroit and WRIF radio DJ Screamin’ Scott. A Salvation Army brass ensemble plays carols each year in the kettle’s vicinity.

For a second year in a row, Scott Wolffis, president and CEO of Commercial Alliance, is the Metro Detroit Red Kettle Christmas Chairman, and has the honor of announcing the campaign (which this year has a goal of $7.9 million) and flipping the switch for the world’s tallest red kettle.

“It is my pleasure to partner with The Salvation Army again this year and do my part in helping my neighbors in need. I look forward to the continued partnership between Commercial Alliance and The Salvation Army,” said Wolffis.

The super-sized kettle stands as a symbol of hope and beckons community members to join The Salvation Army in making a merrier Christmas for their neighbors in need. Annually, more than 2,000 volunteers ring bells at 1,000 kettle sites in metro Detroit. This year at kettles people will have another way to give as the Army in Metro Detroit rolls out a process called tiptap where people simply tap their credit or debit cards or scan their phones to donate $5, $10 or $20.

The Army is blessed to have many generous partners supporting its fundraising campaign and service.

For instance, Commercial Alliance encourages its employees to “adopt” a kettle location and ring bells or to set up virtual red kettles to raise funds. Commercial Alliance and their partner credit unions throughout Michigan also signed on this year as the Great Lakes Division Giving Tuesday sponsor.

As part of its “Bountiful Boxes” program, Bank of America donates $50,000 to provide food boxes offering ingredients for diverse holiday meal options to individuals and families who are affected by food insecurity. The holiday meal boxes are distributed at the 13 area corps which all also hosts seasonal toy shops where families can select toys and gifts for their children.

Last year, more than 56,000 toys and gifts were provided for children and shut-in seniors, and more than 20,000 gift cards were distributed for Christmas meals and gifts.

Chillbox Convenience Stores gives patrons the opportunity to donate to The Salvation Army while accruing points on their app and helps collect coats for the Coats for Kids event which supplies outerwear, gloves and hats to thousands of children, keeping them warm during Detroit’s brutal, snowy winter.

Buddy’s Pizza now boasts the title “Official Red Kettle Pizza Partner.” They not only supply pizza for participants at the Red Kettle Kickoff and other holiday events such as toy distributions, they feature a Red Kettle pizza topping during the season with proceeds from sales going to The Salvation Army. Throughout the year they also frequently provide free pizza for kids at camp and shelter residents.

The Royal Park Hotel is another business for which raising funds for The Salvation Army has become a tradition for 15 years. A ribbon cutting launches the season of giving in the hotel’s festively decorated lobby filled with Christmas trees, snow reindeer, twinkling lights and sparkling ornaments. The David W. Elliott Memorial Foundation has donated a generous $5,000 match.

“Everyone has their own unique Christmas tradition. This is ours,” said Michael Zorn, general manager at the Royal Park Hotel. “The Royal Park Hotel is honored to do its part to support our neighbors in need by partnering with The Salvation Army.”

The Army also benefits from huge media support. From the Celebrity Bell Ring Weekend where 50 local TV and radio personalities man kettles live to the Rock the Red Kettle concert presented by 94.7 WCSX and 101 WRIF.

In an interview with WWJ Newsradio 950 at the beginning of the season, Major Toni Dorrell, Metro Detroit area commander, explained the Red Kettle Campaign’s reach.

“It’s not just at the Christmas season. It’s really year-round. Our people are on duty every day of the week, serving the vulnerable of Metro Detroit,” she said, citing the more than 2.4 million meals and 530,000 nights of shelter provided last year. “That doesn’t happen without volunteers, without donors, without these red kettles and the quarters, dollars and checks people put in them.”





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