PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan branches of the Salvation Army will host annual Kettle Kick-Off events in the coming days.

The Kent County branch’s kickoff event is scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday on the Blue Bridge downtown. The bridge will glow red to mark the start of the annual fundraising campaign. There will be music from the Fulton Heights Citadel Songsters & Brass Ensemble, plus hot chocolate, coffee and donuts.

The Kalamazoo-area Kettle Kickoff is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Nov. 17 at Blaine’s Farm and Fleet in Portage. It will feature hot cocoa and coffee, Sweetwater’s Andy Pepper’s hot cocoa donut, the Salvation Army Band and a few special guests.

“The Annual Kettle Kick-off Celebration is a symbol of unity and compassion. It’s a reminder that we can come together to make a real difference in the lives of those less fortunate, especially during the holiday season,” a statement from Maj. Ronnie Amick said.

The Red Kettle Campaign is the Salvation Army’s biggest fundraiser of the year. It supports programs year-round, including food pantries, housing and utilities assistance, senior programs and more.

“We recognize we are in a difficult financial climate, and it has certainly impacted those we serve,” Grand Valley Area Commander Maj. Tim Meyer said in a statement. “The number of those coming to our food pantry alone, has increased by nearly 200% in the past year. While we recognize the economy has also impacted those that want to give, we cannot continue to meet the need without donations.”

You can sign up to be a bell ringer online. You can also donate to the Salvation Army online.