Local Salvation Army volunteers help those in need during the holidays, ringing bell

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Salvation Army has been around since 1865 and was founded in London, England, by a man named William Booth. Since the late 1800's, the Salvation Army has been in Alaska but more recently in Fairbanks since the 1950's.

Captains Lance and Dana Walters are with the local non-profit in Fairbanks. They spoke about how they became a part of this iconic organization.

"Well first and foremost, and most people don't know this, is the Salvation Army is a church, and I didn't even know that like 10 years ago. And we moved to Colorado, and low and behold there was a Salvation Army church on the corner and we went there and just fell in love with their passion and their heart. We eventually became officers,” Walters said.

Dana and Lance, along with other members of the Salvation Army, can be spotted when walking into stores around town, ringing the bell and spreading holiday cheer next to the familiar little red kettle.

"Their dimes, their nickels, their quarters, and pennies, dollars, five dollars, we will put it to good use here in Fairbanks and that's where the money stays, is in Fairbanks,” Walters said.

Dana Walters says the idea of the kettle started years ago in San Francisco when a Salvation Army officer put a big kettle outside by the dock. People placed money into the pot, and from there it grew into a cultural symbol of giving.

"To me, the red kettle means help. Like if I give here, someone is going to be assisted. And so, when I hear that, that's what I think of.,” Walters said.

The Salvation Army also has a unique program that they do just for the kids. The angel tree gathering Christmas gifts for children based on their wishes. Tags are placed upon trees around town and people in the community are able to donate a gift specific for that child.

"He wanted a sled, so they got him a sled, and his interests were football and outside sports,” Walters said.

The Walters say their efforts to help the community are year-round, but during the holidays, they spend countless hours trying help others have a merry holiday. They have even trained their dog Spencer to share the sentimental sound of the season. They are looking forward to serving the people of Fairbanks this year and many years to come.