Kettle Painting Contest Raises Funds, Awareness

By: David Ibata

The Salvation Army Corps in Charleston, West Virginia, came up with a creative way to attract funds to buy new red kettles and raise awareness of its mission: It lined up volunteer artists and loaned them old red kettles to be custom-painted for a publicly judged competition.

“People think of The Salvation Army at Christmas when they see our red kettles and hear the bells, but the need is ever present and continuously increasing,” said Major Brooks Gilliam, Charleston area commander.

Seventeen businesses and organizations signed up for this summer’s Highmark Kettle Contest. Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of West Virginia contributed $1,000 as contest sponsor. The Charleston Town Center shopping mall donated display space.

“Anyone who wanted to be one of our artists, we gave them a kettle,” said Holly Goheen, West Virginia director of development for the Army. “No real limitations were put on them – just to the extent of their creativity.”

The kettles in the contest are being retired. Unlike more recent models made of durable plastic, the old receptacles are metal, so it’s possible to paint them.

“They’ve been in service probably decades,” Goheen said. “They’ve been around a long time and have traveled a lot of miles.”

The kettles, mostly decked out in Christmas holiday themes, went on display Aug. 4 in the storefront windows of a former Gap store at Town Center. Signs explained the contest and identified the contestants.

On Aug. 12, the entries were moved to the mall’s grand court, where people were invited to “vote” for their favorite kettle by depositing money in it.

Slightly more than $1,100 total was raised. “This Little Piggy,” decorated as a pink pig by local middle school student Angeyln Fisher, got the most donations and was declared the winner. Angelyn received as a prize a gift card to a store of her choice.

The corps may display some of the kettles for a limited time this Christmas season “to make it a little more exciting and jazz things up a little,” Goheen said. Afterwards, she said, the plan is “to recycle them, give them a fresh coat of paint, and offer them to artists again next year.”