The Salvation Army will kick off its Red Kettle campaign, with a goal of $949,500, during celebrations from 9:30 to 10 a.m. Saturday at all Festival Foods stores in La Crosse County.

At 10 a.m., students and staffers of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse will take over the heavy bell-lifting until 8 p.m. that day.

The opening celebrations will include entertainment, celebrity bell-ringers and Salvation Army doughnuts.

“Having UW-L staff every kettle site is something we’ve been doing for years, and it’s one of our biggest days for donations,” said Alex Riley of The Salvation Army.

“These students and staff members are supporting us and giving back to their communities in a big way,” Riley said.

The Red Kettle Campaign accounts for about one-third of The Salvation Army of La Crosse County’s annual budget. Donations to the campaign help fund various day-to-day operations including the Emergency Shelter and Meal Program.

The bell-ringing portion of the campaign runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday through Dec. 23 at various sites throughout La Crosse County. The bells usually don’t fall silent until 5 p.m. Christmas Eve, but that is a Sunday this year.

The corps will accept donations through Jan. 31.

Nearly 70 percent of the two-hour bell-ringing shifts remain open, so volunteers still are needed. Volunteers can sign up for open time slots at The Salvation Army web site, by contacting the volunteer coordinator at 608-782-6126, ext. 226 or via email at alex_riley@usc.salvationarmy.org.

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Mike Tighe is the Tribune newsroom's senior citizen. That said, he don't get no respect from the cub reporters as he goes about his duly-appointed rounds on the health, religion and whatever-else-lands-in-his-inbox beats. Call him at 608-791-8446.

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