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Salvation Army of Utica kicks off 2011 Red Kettle Campaign

By HILARY LANE

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Salvation Army of Utica officially kicked off their Annual Red Kettle Christmas Campaign on Monday, and you'll begin to see volunteers ringing red bells all across the area in locations such as Price Chopper Supermarkets, Chanatry's Supermarkets, Herb Philipson's Army and Navy Store, and K-Mart.

The goal of the campaign is to raise $126,000 to help children and adults in need throughout the Utica area.

"A lot of people in this area are looking for jobs and are being laid off this year," says Captain Frank Piccioto of the Salvation Army of Utica. "We have people asking for help all the time."

Five days a week, eight hours a day until Christmas, Vicki Vellinger will be ringing her bell to help the Salvation Army reach their goal.

"I don't have the money to buy for the children or needy families, so this is my way of giving back to the children and families of Utica," says Vellinger.

She is beginning to spread holiday cheer a little bit early this year, helping the Salvation Army raise money to fund Christmas meals, their daily soup kitchen, and community programs for less fortunate children and adults.

In 2010, the Salvation Army of Utica served over 2,300 meals, gave clothing to over 6,000 individuals, provided toys at Christmas to over 3,000 children, and served nearly 8,500 meals in the soup kitchen.

Vellinger says she rings her bells to ensure all have a happy and healthy holiday season. But even when she puts down for the bell for the day, she cannot escape its resonating sound.

"You hear it in your sleep, you hear it when you're awake, even when you hear the phone ringing, you think it is the bell ringing," said Vellinger. "But it's all well worth it, because it is for the children and for the needy people."

The Salvation Army will not be allowed to collect money inside of the Sangertown Mall in New Hartford this holiday season.

A spokeperson from the Salvation Army tells us some issues arose last year with volunteers, so now bell ringers must remain outside of the mall at two designated posts.

The volunteers are permitted to move inside the mall if temperatures fall under 20 degrees.

A spokeswoman for Sangertown Square mall said bell ringers will be located outside J.C. Penney and the bus stop entrance next to Macy's.

"We are happy they are here," the mall spokeswoman said. "We've welcomed them for decades and look forward to the Salvation Army having a successful year."

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