Katie Shirey rings a bell for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle street campaign Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, at Wray’s Food and Drug, 5605 Summitview Ave. in Yakima, Wash.

When I think back to holiday seasons of yore, I fondly remember hearing ringing bells and seeing red kettles. I would scrounge for money, look under couch cushions and under beds, then hide it all in my secret stash until I was ready.

I vividly remember the warm feelings as I proudly deposited my quarters and dimes into the bright crimson kettle outside of the grocery store. It made me feel so happy, and I loved imagining that my money was going to help some other little girl.

Now that I’m older, I’ve realized that when I give to the Salvation Army that it’s going to a good cause. But what exactly am I funding? This holiday season, I decided to find out about the programs that the Salvation Army offers, and I was blown away with the diversity and amount of aid that this organization is able to give families and individuals in our community.

First, all donations stay local, so your money really is going back into your community. The Salvation Army offers help to all ages of community residents, from its after-school program all the way through its seniors program. In fact, while I was interviewing Lisa Sargent, Yakima’s Salvation Army community engagement coordinator, I heard the kids arriving and squealing in delight when they saw the crafts that were laid out for them.

In addition to its numerous year-round programs, of which I have barely scraped the surface, the Salvation Army offers many seasonal services for sharing the joy and warmth of the season. There are the angel trees that are hosted by local businesses, where employees or customers can take a tag and donate a gift. The donated toys are set up into a “store” where families in need can “shop” for their child’s Christmas gift.

There is also Project 500, which pairs a child with an individual who pledges $75 to take them shopping for brand new clothes. This offers a unique experience for both the child and the individual.

The organization also runs an Adopt a Family program in which businesses or individuals are paired with a family and a list of the family’s needs. This offers much-needed relief to the families who are served. More than 700 families in the Yakima area have already requested to receive aid in this way, plus another 1,000 more in the county.

We all know that food is an important part of the holidays and we all enjoy a good meal with our family. However, there are plenty of people in the Valley who don’t have that luxury. In addition to its food bank, the Salvation Army has a Christmas food box that ensures families can share a Christmas meal.

To me, giving is a way to feel connected to my community and it makes it even more meaningful now that I understand more about the Salvation Army’s outreach.

Anabelle Kollman is a freshman at Eisenhower High School.