Local school makes a special donation to Princeton, W. Va., Army

By: David Ibata

Lieutenant Dennis Smith of the Mercer County, West Virginia, Corps loves to cook, and he especially loves to barbecue; in fact, he owns four smokers.

Several years ago, the lieutenant drew up plans for a smoker shaped like a Salvation Army Red Kettle, but the cost of having one custom-fabricated was beyond his means. That is, until he showed his sketches to Don Brown, welding instructor at the Mercer County Technical Education Center, a vocational training center for high school students and adults in Princeton, West Virginia.

Brown “has a deep love for The Salvation Army,” Lieutenant Smith said. “The Salvation Army had helped his family in the past, and they certainly donate to the Army and his father loved the Army. So when I brought the idea to him, he said not only will I do the kettle, I will donate it to you.”

Brown said his high school welding students took on the project “as a service to The Salvation Army, because of who they are and what they do. I told Lieutenant Smith I didn’t expect any kind of compensation or donation to the program other than a little bit of publicity.”

A Princeton propane distributor, Ferrellgas, donated a 400-pound propane tank. The students cut it in half and went to work. After several months of cutting, welding, filing and fitting, they emerged with a sturdy steel-legged device, painted red and bearing a Salvation Army shield.

“These kids used the skills they learned here,” Brown said. “Most of the students who worked on it were beginners, so it was a good learning experience for them.”

The smoker is about five feet high and four feet across. There’s a smokebox door for wood, a secondary door for charcoal, and a top that hinges up to receive a removable griddle or grill.

Lieutenant Smith said, “We can do a variety of foods – pulled pork, chicken, brisket, or just hamburgers and hot dogs. We can even cook eggs with the griddle attachment.”

Plans call for the smoker will be put to work at the corps’ Friday take-out community dinners and other cookouts. At the “Christmas in July” fund-raiser, a bucket will be placed at the bottom of the smoker to receive people’s change – just like a real Red Kettle.


“If we can gather people together and cook for them and recognize The Salvation Army at the same time,” Lieutenant Smith said, “how cool would that be?”