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An early Christmas kickoff

There’s something to be said for getting a head start on things, and that’s what the Salvation Army is aiming to do this year by launching its annual bell-ringing program a week earlier than normal.

Suffolk Salvation Army Corps Capt. Johnny Anthony said this week that a decision by Farm Fresh Supermarkets to increase its efforts in connection with the nonprofit organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year gave units across Hampton Roads an opportunity to stretch their collections a bit longer this year.

Customers at Farm Fresh locations across Hampton Roads were so generous last year — $248,000 was collected at Farm Fresh alone, including $34,000 at the two Suffolk locations — that Farm Fresh wanted to increase its efforts, Anthony said.

The collections during the holidays in the characteristic red kettles help fund Salvation Army programs and expenses, including meals for the hungry and utility assistance.

“This is the biggest fundraiser for us,” Anthony said. “When you put a dollar in or a quarter in, it helps keep our lights on and to continue to do our programs.”

The goal for Suffolk collections this year is $102,000, Anthony said.

He added that Farm Fresh officials have told the Salvation Army that they like having the bell ringers in front of their stores, so they made a big deal of the kickoff event on Friday, offering free snacks and drinks for customers who visited during the event.

In addition to both of the city’s Farm Fresh locations — on North Main Street and Bridge Road — the Salvation Army will have its red kettles set up at Kroger, some ABC stores, Big Lots, Walmart after Thanksgiving and at some Food Lions on select dates.

Folks can also give online by visiting www.virginiasalvationarmy.org/suffolkvacorp.

Ho, ho, ho!