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Carolers get Army's kettle drive started in North Versailles

| Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, 4:51 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
With representatives of Salvation Army centers in Homestead, Braddock, McKeesport, Brackenridge and Carnegie on hand, Army Allegheny County coordinator Major Mark Mackneer talks about the importance of the red kettle drive on Thursday at the North Versailles Township Walmart. The Army hopes to collect $2.7 million from 135-150 kettles in Allegheny County.

A quartet of Salvation Army musicians greeted customers at the Wal-Mart in North Versailles Township on Thursday.

Holiday staples “Joy to the World” and “Jingle Bells” were in the repertoire for the start of the Army's kettle drive.

“You are the highest collecting store, consistently, in the past eight years,” Pittsburgh East market manager Marcy Park told employees.

“We raise almost 30 percent of our total red kettle dollars in front of Wal-Mart stores,” Army Allegheny County coordinator Maj. Mark Mackneer said.

The kettles provide a major portion of Salvation Army resources for the coming year.

The Army hopes to raise $2.7 million across 26 counties in its Western Pennsylvania Division, including $687,500 in Allegheny County. Local goals include $85,000 for Braddock, $60,000 for Steel Valley and $49,000 for McKeesport.

Weekly results will be tallied and displayed on posters at Wal-Marts in North Versailles, West Mifflin, Robinson; Bethel Park, Tarentum, Gibsonia; Natrona Heights, Carnegie and in Waterworks Mall.

“We love to support the Salvation Army,” said North Versailles store manager Melissa Held. “We love their core values and what they stand for.”

Held oversees 450-480 employees at the Wal-Mart overlooking Route 30. She said that support extends to the Army's Project Bundle-Up, as well as to other charities such as the Children's Miracle Network.

Division Commander William Bode said 800,000 acts of kindness will take place during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season across the 26 counties, including clothes, food, toys, help and assistance.

Some customers dropped cash in the bucket in the midst of the brief celebration. Madison Barton, 2, repeatedly put coins in under the watchful eye of her grandmother, Salvation Army Maj. Andrea Barton.

“We have already over 300 families signed up (for holiday aid),” said Madison's grandfather, Maj. Sean Barton, who shares command with his wife of the Salvation Army worship and service center at 821 Market St. in downtown McKeesport.

“That's over 2,000 children represented, and we're not done yet,” Sean Barton said. “We also have a waiting list of 50 families. We will probably be close to 400 families by the end.”

McKeesport is preparing for a Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday from noon to 1 p.m., as are other Salvation Army worship and service centers across Allegheny County.

Centers in McKeesport, Steel Valley (Homestead), Braddock, Allegheny Valley (Brackenridge) and Carnegie were represented at the North Versailles Wal-Mart event.

There are other corporate backers of the Army. Giant Eagles throughout the Mon-Yough area welcome red kettles, which grace 135-150 locations in Allegheny County.

Panera Bread outlets are selling $10 travel mugs, with a portion of the proceeds going to Project Bundle-Up, a project of the Army and WTAE-4.

Those who present the mugs at any of 29 Panera locations through Dec. 31 get free coffee.

On Wednesday the 19 Pittsburgh area Bottom Dollar Food stores donated 300 turkeys that will be served up in 3,000 meals at 11 Allegheny County Salvation Army locations.

Dinners are slated on Tuesday from 6-8 p.m. at the Steel Valley center, 104 E. Ninth Ave. in Homestead, and on Thanksgiving Day from noon-2 p.m. at the Braddock center, 300 Holland Ave. in Braddock.

Some shopping at Wal-Mart were recipients of holiday joy.

A Western Pennsylvania Division spokeswoman said the retailer donated a limited number of gift cards to be distributed randomly to the crowd by secret Santas.

Park's role with the Salvation Army includes a seat on its advisory board. Her efforts for the Army and other charities won her a 2013 Women of Integrity Award from the Pittsburgh Professional Women organization, to be given at a luncheon on Dec. 3 at The Club at Nevillewood.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or

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