Parkersburg Salvation Army raises profile with kettle-painting contest

By: David Ibata

With the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, people wary of venturing outside and the fall-off in traffic to local retailers, The Salvation Army in Parkersburg, West Virginia – like many other corps – faces a challenging Red Kettle campaign season. How to get people excited and engaged?

Majors Patrick and Carey Richmond, corps officers, took inspiration from an innovation introduced by Majors Brooks and Lori Gilliam several years ago at the Charleston, West Virginia, Corps: a kettle-painting contest, with the help of local artists and businesses.

“They actually offered their painted kettles to us,” Major Patrick said. “It just seemed like an excellent fit. We’re trying our very best to come up with new avenues of revenue … something the community can grasp onto and call their own.”

Parkersburg’s “Season of Hope” campaign invites individuals and businesses to pay $100 each to sponsor one of 15 kettles, to be decorated by local artists and volunteers. The Watering Can Art Studio of Vienna, West Virginia, is coordinating the effort.

“I mentioned the idea to the Watering Can’s owner” – she goes by “M.J.,” just the initials – “and she took the idea and ran with it,” Major Patrick said. “M.J. also secured all the sponsors, so she’s already raised $1,500 without us doing anything.”

Salvation Army corps in Charleston and Marietta, Ohio, contributed old-style metal kettles (the plastic ones currently in use don’t take kindly to paint). The receptacles then went to West Virginia University at Parkersburg to be prepped.

“They sandblasted them for us,” Major Patrick said. “Now they’re clean, they look brand new, and they have no red on them.”

The kettles are at the Watering Can, ready for paint. A local shopping center, the Grand Central Mall, has agreed to put them on display for five days starting on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1.

Mall shoppers will be able to “vote” for a particular kettle by putting money into it. The kettles will be opened Saturday, Dec. 5, and the one with the most giving will be declared Best Kettle winner on Facebook and other social media. Each kettle then will go to its sponsor to be placed in an office, store or other location, receiving contributions the rest of the Christmas holiday season.

Major Patrick said he hopes the artists painting the kettles can touch on what The Salvation Army does in Parkersburg “so our community recognizes that what we do at Christmas helps us everything else we do through the year – emergency shelter, feeding kitchen, social services, all of it.”

“No. 1, this will raise awareness of us being a beacon of hope in the Parkersburg area and the six counties we serve. We also hope it will raise more hearts and hands as volunteers for The Salvation Army throughout the year. And obviously, financially, we hope this will offset the loss of revenues this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”