El Dorado, Arkansas, connects with the kettle
By: Brad Rowland
In many communities, both across the Southern Territory and nationwide, The Salvation Army is best known for its iconic red kettle. That was the case in El Dorado, Arkansas, when Captains Jason and Elyshia Perdieu arrived in June 2018. After a successful Christmas campaign, inroads are being made, and awareness and embrace of the Army is growing rapidly.
Upon arrival, Captains Perdieu tried to overhaul the kettle program, seeking to staff kettles with 100 percent volunteer participation. This is no small undertaking and, after evaluation of performance in previous years, that led to the strategic cut-down of locations in and around El Dorado. To make this change happen, overtures were made to Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, churches and other civic groups with an eye toward volunteering. The results were staggering.
“Being able to get out and talk to people gave us an opportunity to educate our donors and potential donors of all the services that we provide,” said Captain Jason Perdieu. “We were pleasantly shocked at how fast people began to light up the phones looking for ways to engage. Whenever they would come to sign up, we’d give them a tour, both of the facilities and all that we do, and that helped us to garner partnerships, not just at Christmas, but throughout the year.”
Relationships were built, and with communication with leaders across the city, the volunteer-driven kettle operation came together. The Army saw an uptick in net funds raised, based heavily on the removal of worker salaries, and the impact went well beyond fundraising.
“A lot of individuals and groups that volunteered at Christmas are now engaged in other ways, and that goes well beyond the holiday season,” said Captain Jason. “Beyond Christmas, we’ve gotten help in our food pantry and our serving ministry; it has increased donations, and it has also increased our volunteer base.”
Volunteers have attended church services, and tangible growth can be seen within corps programming, including youth ministry. The Salvation Army has also received United Way support from partner agencies, and there are plans to move full steam ahead to the 2019 Christmas season with the all-volunteer kettle initiative.
Plans are in the works for a kettle kickoff event to begin the 2019 season and, prior to the summer, the Army has a community-based “Dancing With The Stars” event on the calendar, stemming in part from the relationships constructed through Christmas outreach.
“We’ve found that if we open our arms to hug this community, the community here will hug us back, and they’ve shown that repeatedly,” Captain Jason said. We’ve grown locally as a result of that, even at the corps level with youth programs and church attendance. This community has rallied around The Salvation Army, and I believe it has brought people together in an overall sense. It’s been really amazing to watch a community come together in support of the Army in such a short amount of time.”