The TimesDaily’s Empty Table Fund made a nearly $3,000 leap in donations the past week, bringing the total to $3,425.

The fund, in its 40th year, has a $40,000 goal, all of which goes directly to the Salvation Army for its Christmas assistance programs and helping the needy in the Shoals area during the winter months.

Salvation Army office manager Patricia Clemmons said this year’s Angel Trees are doing well, despite the last minute relocation from Florence Mall to eight sites around the Shoals.

“People are really getting names and we’ve had to replenish every tree with more names,” Clemmons said. “With some of the trees at area businesses, the employees are really taking a lot of the names themselves and they all seem to be very encouraging to their customers about taking names from the tree. This was a change this year from how we’ve always handled the Angel Tree, but it seems to be working well with the public.”

There are more names than ever this year to be taken. According to Clemmons, 1,698 children’s names are on the trees.

“We only have about 100 names left here at the office for replenishing the trees,” Clemmons said. “We certainly hope that’s an indication that all the children’s names will be taken. We’ve been blessed that so many people are willing to participate.”

While the Angel Tree is one highly visible ministry of the Salvation Army in the community, so is the Red Kettle Campaign. With bell ringers out in force at various business locations across the Shoals, some groups have taken the task of bell ringing as their Christmas season’s mission.

First United Methodist Church of Tuscumbia is one such group. The church is in its fourth year of providing bell ringers for the entire season for the kettle at Foodland in Tuscumbia.

Church member Reg Mulligan was no stranger to ringing the bell. His Sunday school class volunteered in years past. But when the suggestion came from a staff member to expand the ministry, Mulligan said the church responded in a big way.

“We didn’t have to beg people to sign up for shifts to ring the bell; they just started signing up,” said Mulligan, who coordinates the volunteers for the kettle. “It’s such a blessing to know that you’re doing something that helps so many people. My wife has always filled in for people who can’t make it but she’s sort of gotten her feelings hurt because there are so many others willing to do it that she doesn’t get to ring that much.”

The goal for the kettles this year is $130,000. The kettles will be out daily, except for Sundays, through Dec. 24.

Contributions to the Empty Table Fund can be dropped off at the TimesDaily, 219 W. Tennessee St., Florence, or mailed to the Empty Table Fund, P.O. Box 797, Florence, AL 35631.

The following individuals contributed to the fund this week: Killen United Methodist Church, $400; Mary E. Shelton, $100; Cynthia E. Johnson, $100; Peary and Paula Willard, $50; anonymous, $500; Shoals Car and Truck Club, $250; anonymous, $100; C.R. and Mary May, $25; in memory of my grandparents, Michelle Kantor, $100; anonymous, $100; George and Elizabeth Chambers, $200; Mr. and Mrs. A.J. Gallegos, $500; Marcia M. Bystrom, $250; Ford and Gloria Brown, $50; Pierian Study Club, $100; Mrs. L.J. Sheffield, $25.

Lisa Singleton-Rickman can be reached at 256-740-5735 or lisa.singleton-rickman@TimesDaily.com.

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