The Salvation Army kettles at local stores have a long history — in 1891 a Salvation Army captain vowed to provide a free Christmas dinner for the destitute and poverty stricken in San Francisco. To fund the project, he placed an iron kettle at a ferry landing, with a note asking people to "keep the pot boiling."

Today's red kettle is more festive, and in this area, funds are not used for Christmas dinner, but they do help our most needy neighbors keep a roof over their heads and the utilities on, or provide medicine, food and clothing.

Approximately 160 vouchers were given to individuals or families from February through September 2013, up 20 from the previous year, according to RSVP director Tiffany Ailstock, who administers the fund.

During most years, funds have been released for local use in February and had to be spent by September. The policies have changed this year, with some money available year-round.

"We've been piggy-banking funds," said Mary Scott, senior field consultant in Kansas City. "We're able to advance funds so our services don't stop."

The need for Salvation Army assistance, available on a one-time basis, has increased statewide, Scott said, even when economic predictions indicate the need should have fallen off.

"We can disagree with that," she said, noting that in some cases, families with two working parents run out of money before the month's bills are paid, especially if there is a "hiccup" — illness or unexpected bills.

The red kettle campaign is a one-time-a year effort to raise funds for local needs. In Pratt, there are several ways to give:

Bell-ringers are stationed at Dillons and Walmart from Thanksgiving through Dec. 24. Donations average $450 per day, according to coordinator Tracy Petz.

Red kettles have been placed in several retail locations: Prime Time, Taylor Petroleum, Skaggs Ace Hardware, Memories and Cathy's Closet.

A paper kettle was inserted in the Tribune's Wednesday edition last week. Cash donations to the Salvation Army may be sent to Deb Goyen, P.O. Box B, Pratt, KS 67124.

Eighty-eight percent of funds are available for Pratt County residents.