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Aside from decorations for sale and holiday music playing inside local retail stores, one of the first signs of the Christmas season is when the Salvation Army bell ringers take up their post around the Twin Cities.

The Red Kettle Drive kicks off Friday, in time for the busiest shopping day of the year. Volunteers will be on duty until Christmas Eve ringing their bells and happily collecting donations to aid those less fortunate in our community.

It's a tradition that dates back to 1891 when a San Francisco Salvation Army captain started it all. Since then it's become a nationwide campaign, collecting millions of dollars each year.

The Red Kettle Drive is responsible for about 80 percent of the Salvation Army's funds. Locally, last year's campaign collected $160,000. And that money stays right here at home, helping your friends and neighbors.

If you can help, we encourage you to do so. Even a few coins each time you pass a volunteer bell ringer will do a lot of good.

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