Red kettle bell stolen from Salvation Army at supermarket in Athol 

  • PHOTO BY GREG VINE PHOTO BY GREG VINE

  • Market Basket in Athol FILE PHOTO

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 11/15/2022 2:56:02 PM
Modified: 11/15/2022 2:56:00 PM

ATHOL — The Athol Salvation Army Corps is busy getting ready to provide holidays meals for local families and toys for area children. Yet, despite all it does to provide charity and moral support during holiday season, the organization recently became the victim of someone who apparently decided their wants take priority over the needs of their neighbors.

As a discussion on the Salvation Army’s efforts for the upcoming holidays was getting underway, Captain Esther Wilson told the Athol Daily News that the local corps had recently been the victim of a theft. Wilson explained someone had stolen one of the red kettles the group uses to collect funds for a variety of expenses. The theft, she said, took place at about 5:45 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12 in front of the Market Basket at North Quabbin Commons.

“He just grabbed it, got back in his car, and drove off,” she said.

Wilson said it’s estimated that the kettle contained about $300. Athol Police Chief Craig Lundgren said that, as of Monday, no one has been charged with the theft and an investigation is continuing.

Despite the setback, Wilson and her corps of volunteers is soldiering ahead, getting ready to provide Thanksgiving meals to what has become an increasing number of families and individuals in need of help.

Wilson said there has been no problem securing the food to be packed into the boxes which will be picked up by those families who will be cooking a turkey with all the fixings on Thanksgiving Day.

“We have wonderful donors, number one,” she said. “And I’m going to Hannaford to pick up the food. We go to the (Worcester County) Food Bank and get what we can there. I’m going there today to pick up some turkeys and gift cards. And we’re thankful for that.”

And there is a lot of food that needs to be picked up and packed.

“If there’s a family that has more than four people, they get two meals,” said Wilson. “They get one turkey and two boxes of all the stuff that goes with it. So, to count all of it, we’re giving out 250 to 300 meals.

“Since we don’t have a lot of freezer space, we do give out gift cards to the smaller families or to individuals.”

Wilson said the state of the economy is definitely having an impact on demand for meals.

“I know we’re giving out more this year than we did last year,” she said. “The uptick is maybe 20 percent, 25 percent more people that have asked for assistance. More people are asking for assistance; and it doesn’t help when people take off with our kettle.”

The theft of the kettle has definitely hit Wilson hard.

“I could sit here and cry,” she said. “because I am so blessed in this community. This community is a giving community. They have a heart for what we do. And we are completely blessed by the community, but when something like that happens it just throws a wrench into things.”

Wilson explained that the money collected during the annual kettle drive goes to fund a number of expenses.

“The kettle is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” she said. “It isn’t just for Christmas. It’s for our overhead. It’s for our electric bill and our hearing bill all through the year. At Christmas, we really depend on the community for their help with the Angel Tree, purchasing toys for the kids.”

Wilson noted that the Athol Congregational Church is currently running an event called “Fill Al’s Truck.” Al Benjamin and his truck will be at the Athol Congregational Church UCC parking lot,1225 Chestnut Street on Sundays from 10 to 11 a.m. through Dec. 18. Call the church at 978-249-6202.

“They raise all kinds of food for our pantry, which is important,” she continued. “We go to the food bank twice a month and we run out of food by the end of the month. The fire and police departments come together, and they send us money. The Orange Fire Department sent us money and the Athol Fire Department is giving us complete meals that we can provide to people on our waiting list, because we have a waiting list. My heart wants to help them, to get them off the waiting list.”

Wilson explained that the Salvation Army does not put on a Thanksgiving Meal at its location. She said the North Quabbin Community Coalition is holding the William J. O’Brien Memorial Thanksgiving Dinner at noon at the Athol American Legion on Thanksgiving Day. For reservations, which are required, call the Athol Council on Aging at (978) 249-8986.

In addition, she said that the Athol High School Food Bank is assisting by taking applications for food boxes for Thanksgiving and Christmas and for toys for area children.

In closing, Wilson added, “We are thankful for Whipps, Inc. and It’s a Pleasure Training for their substantial donations to us at Thanksgiving and throughout the year.”

Wilson said anyone wanting to make a donation to the Athol Salvation Army Corp can send a check directly to 107 Ridge Avenue, Athol 01331. And even if you don’t have any loose change or bills, donations can be made at any red kettle using Apple Pay or Google Pay.

For additional information go to www.facebook.com/TheSalvationArmyAthol/.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.


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