It can be a thankless job: cold wind, frosty responses from passersby and even the occasional run-in with thieves.
But volunteers for the Salvation Army's kettle drive say they enjoy interacting with the community and seeing people offer a hand to those in need.
Long-time Salvation Army member Arnold Caruk has been ringing the kettle bells in the Chilliwack area for more than 10 years.
The great-grandfather especially loves seeing children drop coins into the kettle. A tiny contributor recently came by Caruk's post at Walmart and made a big impression on the former teacher.
"She was so lively, this little kid," Caruk said, smiling.
He had to tilt the kettle so the girl, about three years old, could drop in her donation.
Some people give large chunks of change. On one occasion, Caruk was given a huge cookie tin filled with more coins than could fit in the kettle, he said.
Not everyone is filled with the Christmas spirit, however.
About nine years ago, in Agassiz, two teenage boys made off with Caruk's kettle, the proceeds of which help fund Christmas hampers, as well as soup kitchens, thrift stores and emergency shelters year-round. But Caruk wasn't about to let the grinches steal his Christmas kettle.
"They figured I couldn't run as fast as they could but at that time I was in pretty good shape," he said.
After retrieving the kettle, Caruk attached a 60-pound cement block to the stand.
"That made it a little harder to run off with."
Jamie Doldersum, 17, is in her third year as a Christmas-kettle volunteer. Like Caruk, she's seen her share of characters. On one occasion, a man ostentatiously pulled out a 20-dollar note.
"He just takes out this 20 and he's like, 'this should be it; how do I fit it in?'" Dolder-sum, a Grade 12 student at High Road Academy, said.
The most challenging thing about being a kettle pot volunteer is that it happens at such a busy time of the year.
"[But] in the end it is worth it," she said. "I just like serving the community. . . . It's a great way to give back and to help out."
Another quirky behaviour Doldersum has noticed is that many people announce they aren't carrying cash as they walk past the kettle, apparently to excuse themselves for not donating.
Caruk thinks this may point to one reason why the kettles are lighter this year.
"People don't carry money around much any more," he said.
Kettle donations are down significantly for the second year in a row, said Ian Pratt, community ministries director for the Chilliwack Salvation Army. Pratt did not have exact figures, but said the numbers were about 15 per cent below the charity's goal.
According to Pratt, people are still donating but in smaller amounts. People want to hang on to their money because it doesn't go as far as it used to, he said.
? For the tech-savvy, donations this season can be made via smartphone by texting HOPE1003 to 45678. The kettle drive runs until Christmas eve.
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