The Kiwanis-run campaign is open through Christmas Eve and will match all $20 bills through a silent donor
The sound of bells echoes through the thick air before you’ve even entered the Publix parking lot on Bay Isles Parkway, filling the steamy Florida day with holiday spirit. There may not be snow on the ground, but the most vital aspect of the season is underway in front of your local supermarket: giving.
Once again, Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key has coordinated with the Salvation Army to bring the famous “red kettle” campaign to the island. Shoppers and passersby can drop donations into the kettle, which will be manned by a bell-ringer in front of Publix’ exit from 9 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. everyday through Christmas Eve. The campaign now accepts Apple Pay and Google Pay.
Additionally, all $20 bills will be matched by a silent donor for the second year in a row. This means any individual’s donation of $20 is essentially a donation of $40 to assist those less fortunate. Campaign organizer Ed Krepela said the Longboat Key drive has been the top raiser in the area for many years, but “20 for 20” took it to new heights last year.
“I mentioned [to one gentleman] that we do have this 20 for 20 drive,” Krepela said. “He says, ‘Excuse me. I’ll be right back.’ And he went to the bank and came back and he dropped in five 20s. He came back the next day and dropped in another five 20s.”
Krepela said there are 112 or 113 volunteers to fill seven 75-minute time slots a day. These include town officials, members of local organizations and individuals who simply want to help. Sometimes shoppers walk out of Publix and feel so moved that they sign up to volunteer on the spot.
Beth Fusco volunteered for the first time last year. She’s a friendly person, so when Krepela mentioned he was looking for volunteers, she thought it sounded like a way to “share the happiness.”
“It’s a really good cause,” Fusco said. “It’s better to give than to receive.”
Fusco likes to volunteer early on Sunday mornings, which are slower than usual. Still, it’s rare for more than five minutes to pass without someone dropping cash or change in the kettle. Some donors stop to chat with Fusco, including Pat Bentley.
“When you see the beauty around us and the happy faces,” Bentley said, “why wouldn’t you do something for those less fortunate?”