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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.

Bob McClay, Reporter

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