The Salvation Army strikes gold, not to mention keys, buttons, whatever else may lurk deep in people's pockets. The coins that jingle in the red kettles add up for an organization that helps so many.
Enduring the elements on a cold day outside Hy-Vee, Lloyd Behrens found warmth in each coin or bill stuffed in his red kettle.
"Thank you," he told a woman dropping in cash.
Behrens, a Salvation Army bell ringer said, "It's a good feeling, really good feeling because it's a good organization, do a lot for people."
They help people like Lloyd, who turned to the Salvation Army when he was homeless. Red
kettle donations fund the food pantry, shelter, meal kitchen, and more.
"All are contingent how we do with the campaign," said Capt. Dave Mowers.
The money accounts for a third of their annual budget. The Salvation Army's annual appeal has been ringing steadily for more than a century.
Behrens has the wrist action down. He said, "It's like riding a bike, once you get used to it, it doesn't bother you."
Some give every time they see a kettle. Others make a one-time gift. And mixed in with loose buttons and grocery lists, they find surprises.
Mowers said, "We occasionally find a gold coin. Those are a great donation, especially with the price of gold right now we can make that donation stretch far."
And Captain Dave says stretching dollars to give hope to the down and out is what the Salvation Army's about.
He said, "There's a lot of great organizations doing great things but we look for niches where people fall through the cracks and that's where we want to serve and people we want to get out and help."
Thanks to the Salvation Army, Lloyd's getting his life together.
"They've done a lot for me. What little bit I can do for them, that's gratification on my part," he said, not missing a beat with his bell.
Mowers said Thanksgiving week has been strong at supermarkets. He's got 19 kettles across Grand Island.
Weather can be a factor. Last year's Christmas Eve blizzard was tough, but Captain Dave has faith they'll be provided for.
Reporter's Notes by Steve White:
Mowers said the Salvation Army also has virtual kettles for Facebook users. People can also donate online at www.salvationarmygi.org.
Last year, they found a gold coin in a kettle worth $1,300. Mowers said it's certainly rare to receive an anonymous gift of that size. He also finds other odds and ends in kettles, that he keeps in his office.