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Updated Nov 23, 2012 - 2:08 pm

Salvation Army starts holiday kettle drive

Phoenix firefighters are helping the Salvation Army with its holiday kettle drive this season. (Photo by Bob McClay)

PHOENIX -- Phoenix firefighters are helping the Salvation Army with its holiday kettle drive this season.

Firefighters from Phoenix Ladder 11 sang carols and rang the bell to help kick off the kettle drive Friday morning at the Fry's food and drug at 44th Street and Thomas Road.

"It's just one way we give back to the community on our days off," said Phoenix fire Captain Rich Bauer. "We'll be doing it at various locations throughout the city."

They'll be doing it every Saturday though the holiday season.

"We ring the bell, we do Christmas carols, we ave an apparatus display for the kids," said Bauer. "The whole idea is try to get the community involved and try to help the people who are a little less fortunate than us."

The first people to drop a couple of bucks into the kettle Friday morning were Jessie Hogue and his daughter Chloe. Jessie remembers how the Salvation Army helped his family when they were homeless ten years ago.

"We lost our house, lost our jobs, lost everything," said Jessie. "Now, we have a house again and are back to we were. You want to give back."

The firefighters hope to raise $9,000 dollars while manning the kettles. That's a drop in the bucket compared to what the Salvation Army needs.

"We hope to raise a half-a-million dollars," said Salvation Army Colonel Olan Hogan. "Close to $600-thousand dollars if we can. We have a lot of needs in this season." Hogan said the kettle drive accounts for 60 percent of the Salvation Army's income during the holiday season.

Not everyone is thrilled with the Salvation Army's bell ringers, though. One New Hampshire woman called police because she says the bell ringers were making too much noise outside of her jewelry store.

Here in Phoenix, Fry's Food and Drug president John Flora said the bell ringers don't bother anyone.

"If you don't want to [contribute], you don't want to," said Flora. "All you have to do is walk by the bell, and you don't have to give. For me…how many quarters and dimes and nickels do you have in the ash tray of your car, or in the side pocket? A bunch! Pull those little things out, bring them in and throw them in the kettle. Those things add up."

Flora said that people need to focus on the good things that the bell ringers are doing.

"In some cases, people might look at the bell ringers as a nuisance," Flora said. "But one in every four families in this city need help with food. As you walk by the bell, you should throw a little into the kettle. Quarters add up to dollars, and dollars add up to bigger things."

Flora said the bell ringers will be outside of Valley Fry's food stores at least 12 hours a day through the holiday season.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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