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In 1891, Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee was distraught because so many poor individuals in San Francisco were going hungry. During the holiday season, he resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner for the destitute and poverty-stricken. He only had one major hurdle to overcome — funding the project.

He lay awake nights, worrying, thinking, praying about how he could find the funds to fulfill his commitment of feeding 1,000 of the city’s poorest individuals on Christmas Day. As he pondered the issue, his thoughts drifted back to his sailor days in Liverpool, England. He remembered how at Stage Landing, where the boats came in, there was a large, iron kettle called “Simpson’s Pot” into which passers-by tossed a coin or two to help the poor.

The next day Captain McFee placed a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing at the foot of Market Street. Beside the pot, he placed a sign that read, “Keep the Pot Boiling.” He soon had the money to see that the needy people were properly fed at Christmas.

The tradition continues to this day.  Almost everyone has seen a Salvation Army bell ringer standing next to the signature red kettle.  Most people who donate place a small bill or handful of change into the kettle.  For about the past 20 years in Bloomington,  Indiana, a collector’s coin is deposited into a kettle, usually worth several hundred dollars.

This year, something unusual is happening.

Adding to the almost annual gift in Indiana, valuable gold coins have been discovered in kettles in Washington…

…and Pennsylvannia; in Florida and Oregon.  Nebraska, Kentucky, and Atlanta, Georgia.

Someone, or more likely a group of someones, is leaving all kinds of valuable articles in the donation kettles.  Diamond solitaires, gold rings–and in Frederick, Maryland–a collector deposited five gold coins into area kettles.  He then visited the Salvation Army collections center and purchased the coins back for about $9,000.00.

This season celebrates the Great Giver.  What better way to celebrate the Greatest Gift than to freely give?  No matter the size of the gift, the giver is blessed to know that the gift is helping to bless another human being whom Jesus came to love and forgive.