Captain mans Salvation Army kettle for 24 hours

Salvation Army Capt. James Bang of The Salvation Army in Greater Waterbury nears the end of his 24-hour shift outside Walmart in Naugatuck Nov. 30. -KAREN ALI/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — James Bang arrived at Walmart on New Haven Road on Black Friday, not to take advantage of any sales, but rather to man a red kettle and ring a bell.

For 24 hours, the captain for Salvation Army in Greater Waterbury rang the iconic bell and stood by that red kettle inviting shoppers to donate money to the Salvation Army on one of the busiest times of the holiday season.

The Salvation Army dubbed Bang’s 24-hour effort a “24-Hour, $20 Red Kettle Challenge.” The goal was to get as many $20 donations as possible, though any amount was welcome.

“It’s going to be cold, but I love to do it,” Bang said as he started his voluntary shift. “It’s a good opportunity to spread the joy of the holy day with the beautiful song of the bell.”

By the following afternoon, Bang looked tired but he was still smiling, and he was happy that the sun was shining. He hoped that even after he headed home, people wouldn’t forget to support those less fortunate during the holiday season wherever they hear that bell.

“They don’t have to stop after the 24-hour effort is over,” he said. “They can even participate on their couch, in the living room.”

People can donate electrically to the Salvation Army, and this year is the first year the Salvation Army accepts Apply Pay and Google Pay, Bang said. People can text “Waterbury” to the number 71777 to donate.

The ringing of the bell and the red kettle have been a Salvation Army fixture for the past 128 years at local grocery stores and other retailers during the holiday season.

“There is such a strong need in our community. We see it every day and we rely on the generosity of our community to come out and support the Red Kettle campaign,” Bang said.

Bang said that nationally, in 2017 the Salvation Army provided 10,393,788 nights of shelter and 55,440,783 meals.

Locally, the Salvation Army provides free shelter — it has nine rooms and 30 beds — at its Central Avenue location in Waterbury. The cost to provide that free service is $40 per person, he said. The Waterbury Salvation Army also has a food pantry and offers utility and rent assistance.

Before Bang started his 24-hour shift, volunteer Abraham Alsobrooks of Waterbury greeted Black Friday shoppers throughout the day.

“I do this every year,” he said, adding he’s been a bell ringer for 10 years. “It’s always busy on Black Friday. I love it. I love the people.”

William Figueroa of Waterbury was one shopper who donated as he exited the store.

“I’m shopping for my son during the Black Friday sales,” Figueroa said. “I just felt like giving back. It felt good to donate something.”