Texas musicians use ‘Curbside Carols’ to raise funds, awareness in community

By: Brad Rowland

The Salvation Army’s “Rescue Christmas” campaign is making an impact across the Southeastern United States. In and around Lewisville, Texas, it takes the form of the sweet sound of a brass quintet playing carols and bringing a ministry directly to individuals and families.

In mid-December, a brass ensemble of Salvationist musicians started a weekend ministry to support The Salvation Army’s year-round work in the area. The outreach, “Curbside Carols,” garners a minimum donation of $50 to play three carols or Christmas songs at a location of the donor’s choosing.

“The Lewisville Corps band typically has a robust caroling schedule,” said Philip Burn, Lewisville Corps bandmaster and divisional communications director for Texas. “Usually, we form two ensembles that cover three-hour windows at a kettle outside a store every Saturday during the holiday season, with additional events sprinkled in.

“This year, with COVID-19 impacting everything, we wanted to take a different approach and came up with Curbside Carols. The basic idea is to take a band to people at their homes, by request, to provide music and Christmas cheer.”

Over two weekends of Curbside Carols, the quintet has raised close to $5,000 in donations, and the feedback has been extremely positive.

“It’s been really well received,” Burn said. “On our first-ever stop, we arrived to find a group of about 25 people, socially distanced and wearing masks outside. It became a neighborhood Christmas party, with hot chocolate and singing. Everyone enjoyed the music, and we received additional donations in the red kettle. We even played Happy Birthday for one guy!”

“We’ve had a great response, from people reaching out to simply thank us for the band, to others expressing their gratefulness for the work of The Salvation Army. It’s been a challenging year, and the Christmas music has really lifted everyone’s spirits. It has been special to see families together outside their home, and neighbors gathering to enjoy the music in their street.”

Burn kickstarted the ministry by establishing an email contact to be shared, and the group utilized Facebook, other social media platforms, and community outlets to spread the word. Donations are received through an online link to the Lewisville Corps virtual kettle or directly to an actual red kettle that accompanies the band. With a simple confirmation before arrival, minimal setup is required.

While the ensemble is limiting its reach to the areas of Lewisville, Flower Mound and Highland Village, this is an outreach that can expand in 2021 and beyond.

“As we’ve left and moved on to other stops, people have already begun talking to us about doing it again next year,” said Burn. “We’ve also heard from people that Curbside Carols is something of a throwback to a previous era when caroling was more common outdoors, and that reflection seems to be a real positive.”

Fundraising efforts such as this are crucial in the newly challenging landscape, but this is also an outreach that can help build relationships and awareness of The Salvation Army.

“We’re reaching new people and, from a fundraising standpoint, connecting with those in our community who may not already be giving to us,” Burn said. “It’s also exposing more and more people to The Salvation Army’s work and ministry. It just feels like a win all around, and I think it is a valid and interesting option for the Army beyond just our community and 2020.”