MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Salvation Army raises around $3 million every year in the Twin Cities through their red kettle campaign.

The campaign started in San Francisco in 1891. Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee came up with the idea to collect money to feed the poor during the holiday season. He used a single iron kettle for donations.

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“Within two years the Salvation Army had thirty kettle sites, and it’s just expanded from there,” said Salvation Army Twin Cities Commander Jeff Strickler.

The Salvation Army has more than 900 kettles today in Minnesota alone, and thousands all over the world.

“Each one probably collects around $30 an hour,” Stickler said.

The money raised will help more than 4.5 million people this holiday season, providing families in need with food, clothing and shelter.

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Most people donate cash or coins in the red kettles, but they’ve gotten some unusual items over the years — everything from jewelry to gold teeth.

“One of the most fascinating items I remember was a young homeless girl that donated a little emerald ring that her father had given her,” Strickler said. “Her father was deceased, and even though she was homeless she wanted to give that.”

Since 2011, one donor has been giving ten, crisp $100 bills to kettles all over the Twin Cities. The Salvation Army has nicknamed them “Saint Grand.”

“We don’t know who they are, which is crazy,” said Salvation Army Development Director Kelsey Mattison. “But even the coins you’d be shocked, it adds up to thousands.”

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There are around 500 red kettle locations in the Twin Cities. If you’d like to donate or become a bell ringer, click here.

Kate Raddatz