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Red Kettle ringers try to raise money

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/22/18/18/JI3vC.Em.138.jpeg|234
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    Jennifer Okafor watches as fake snow falls on the crowd during the Salvation Army's Red Kettle kickoff at the EpiCentre in uptown Charlotte Friday, November 22, 2013. The Salvation Army has set a goal of raising $435,000 this year's campaign.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/22/18/18/1kR7tr.Em.138.jpeg|210
    TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com
    A tree is illuminated during the Salvation Army's Red Kettle kickoff at the EpiCentre in uptown Charlotte Friday, November 22, 2013. The Salvation Army has set a goal of raising $435,000 this year's campaign.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/22/18/18/UvYrq.Em.138.jpeg|220
    TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com
    Jennifer Okafor laughs as she hands out bells during the Salvation Army's Red Kettle kickoff at the EpiCentre in uptown Charlotte Friday, November 22, 2013. The Salvation Army has set a goal of raising $435,000 this year's campaign.

Charlotte’s Salvation Army has seen its share of oddities dropped in red kettles during the holidays, including a gold tooth last year.

“And we’re fine with that,” says Salvation Army spokeswoman Shelley Henderson. “We took the tooth someplace and had it melted down. We get a lot of foreign coins, too, and we do exchange them for American money. We can be a clearinghouse for foreign coins.”

The charity’s annual Red Kettle fundraiser kicked off Friday with the same goal as last year – $435,000 – but with an added challenge: There are several fewer days in the campaign because Thanksgiving falls later in the year.

Henderson says hitting this year’s goal seems even more ambitious when you keep in mind that they missed that same goal last year by $3,000.

“But you ask me, setting a goal of $435,000 and missing it by that much is pretty good,” she says.

There will be 80 kettles this year and unlike last year, none will take debit cards. Debit donations were introduced last year, but the program proved to be costly because of processing fees, officials said. As a result, the program was dropped.

Money raised through the Red Kettle program pays for a variety of year-round Salvation Army programs, including its homeless shelter for women and children, a rehab center for men, and the Boys and Girls Clubs.

Salvation Army officials say they’re hoping this will be the first year a gold coin turns up in one of the local kettles.

It has become a holiday tradition for Salvation Army locations around the country to report gold coin donations at Christmas, including 100-year-old coins tossed in kettles last year in Lehigh Acres, Fla., and Mishawaka, Ind. Both were worth more than $1,700.

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