Kick-off to the Red Kettle Campaign - FOX 42: Omaha News, Sports and Weather; kptm.com |

Kick-off to the Red Kettle Campaign

Nicole Ebat

OMAHA(KPTM)--You know the holiday season has officially arrived when you start seeing the red kettles and their bell ringers out and about.

The kettles started popping up around Omaha Friday, but the campaign didn't truly kick off until the tree of lights shone bright on the corner of 90th and Dodge.

The 75-foot-tall illuminated tree has over 80,000 LED lights. Organizers say it's the tallest illuminated tree in the Midwest.

Even though the kettles are ready to go, the Salvation Army is in heavy need of bell ringers this year.

"The bell ringers play a very very important part in our campaign because they help us reach that $3.1 million goal that we have this year," said Joanne Bemis, Salvation Army's Director of Development.

She notes that even a little bit of change helps and can help children experience the gift of giving.

The money raised during the 6-week holiday campaign will go toward the organizations year-around programs like food pantries, housing and utility assistance.

If you'd like to volunteer to be a bell ringer, you can sign up online here.

They're also looking for help with their seasonal programs like the Adopt-A-Family program which helps needy families put a few trimmings under their trees.

"It can be hard, I'm only working part time right now," said Dezeree Brown. "My bills are paid, but it can be hard to stretch the extra money."

The single mother of an 11-year-old girl signed up for the program to help her daughter have as traditional a Christmas as possible.

"I asked for books and, I don't know why, but socks. She loves socks with little designs on it, but whatever they give we will be so grateful for it."

Over 5,000 children have been signed up to receive presents this year.

That's fewer kids asking for toys than last year, but organizers say that's partially because families are asking for something else.

"This year believe it or not, what a lot of folks are coming in for is like basic necessities," said Tiffany McCowin. "They're not asking for a lot of toys and things of that nature, they're wanting their kids to have educational gifts and a lot of clothing and people are asking for diapers."

Those in the program say they're extremely grateful for the families willing to help them out and hope to one day have the chance to pass it forward.

"When I get on my feet, I'll be able to adopt a family. That's be my big goal is to show my daughter what it's like to give back," said Brown.

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