Elizabeth D'Aurora

It’s almost impossible to think of the holidays without thinking of the less fortunate and those who are helping them out during this joyous season.

One organization has been helping those in need across the country for over 100 years through the red kettle collection program.

Captain Juanita Stanford, Corps Officer of the Portage County Salvation Army said, “It (the red kettle program) started in San Francisco as a big bucket to keep the pot boiling for those who were in need.”

And today, it continues – with 800 volunteers needed to operate the 16 locations around Portage County that are collecting donations in the red kettles.

The goal was set at $62,000, which is $2,000 more than last year. So far, the collection is on track with helping those in need and bringing the community together.

“It’s really a way to bring the community together,” Stanford said. “Those who have and those who do not have to be able to just help one another; that’s what community is all about – helping those who are down and in need.”

One volunteer is paying it forward by helping the organization that helped him get back on his feet.

Joey volunteers ringing the bell to give back to the organization he thinks is doing the most good.

“The Salvation Army is always helping out,” he said. “Me, myself, once upon a time I was homeless and I needed help and they were there to help me.”

The Center of Hope Christian Cupboard is another organization helping those in need during the holiday season.

About 100 people take advantage of the warm meals that are served at the cupboard on a daily basis under the guidance of Sister Denise Stiles who has been in charge of the center for three years.

But providing those meals isn’t possible without volunteers who get as much out of the opportunity as those who take advantage of the services that are offered.

“Not only are we serving the people who come for meals, we’re helping broaden a lot of people,” Stiles said.

The Center of Hope provides meals, a safe place and a sense of community for anyone who needs it during the holiday season.

“It’s a social group that comes in early in the morning,” Stiles said. “We’re important there in helping keep people aware of each other. They have a place to come – when it’s hot outside they can come inside to our air condition, when it’s cold outside they can come into the heat.”

Both The Salvation Army and The Center of Hope are also collecting gifts to provide a happier holiday season for the less fortunate.