By Muriel J. Smith RED BANK – They may not all be out there in Santa outfits anymore, but the volunteers and employees of the Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign are as diligent as ever in striving to meet this year’s goal of raising $100,000 to support Christmas programs and services throughout the entire year.This year’s Red Kettle Drive was launched by the Red Bank Corps two weeks ago, and kettles can be found at various locations throughout the Monmouth County areas, according to Lt. Brennen Hinzman, Commanding Officer of Red Bank Corps.“The work done here throughout the year cannot be done without your contri- butions this season,” Hinzman said. Staffing the kettles are either an employee or a volunteer, ringing a bell and engaging the shoppers, Hinzman explained. He noted there are individuals and groups who enjoy standing kettles every year and faithfully help the Salvation Army to meet that year’s monetary goal.For both employees and volunteers, the Corps workers can opt for wearing a Santa outfit or identifying themselves in plain clothes wearing the apron or pin synonymous with the Salvation Army. Bell Ringers also can be as individualized as they’d like, within the limits of the places where they are standing. Which means, there might be a bell ringer dancing to a boombox she’s carrying or dancing in front of his Red Kettle tripod, or, like the volunteers in Little Silver, wearing their Santa outfits because they like that the best. “Every area is different,” said Jesabel Cruz, office manager and caseworker in the Salvation Army office at 180 Newman Springs Road.“We love our volunteers because they are committed and give of their time,” the Corps commander said, adding, “but we also enjoy being able to provide temporary seasonal employment, giving people the opportunity to earn some much needed income. Many of the workers have their confidence restored, as they are entrusted with a duty that gives back to their own communities.”One such worker is the newest employee for the Red Bank unit, Joseph Kuca, who can usually be found in front of the ACME store in Lincroft, except on Wednesdays. Kuca wrote a letter to the Salvation Army this Thanksgiving, thanking them for giving him the emotional lift he needed at a difficult time in his life, and praising the Salvation Army members for “allowing me to be a part of your family.”Kuca thanked the Army for resupplying his pantry and said until that time, “I couldn’t remember when I’d had eggs last. You too touched my heart with your kindness.” Kuca thanked every individual member of the Army who welcomed him with warmth, compassion and respect when he came for assistance, and told them “your collective humanity made all the difference to me at a time when I was at my lowest. It buoyed me … up to go forward and to face the storm with renewed courage. As your nineteenth century poster proclaimed, ‘A man may be down, but he’s never out!’ ”Kuca was quick to spread the good will he himself had received by joining the Red Kettle Drive. But even here, he went on, doing the work for the drive “has been truly the single most rewarding experience that I have ever known, truly. The positive response of the public, their sharing of stories of positive, life altering, life affirming experiences, realized through contact with the Salvation Army, in their lives, is most heartening. It warms my heart.”Kuca concluded that while he may never become a soldier in the corps, “but I have always been, and ever shall be, a most devoted advocate and Camp Follower of the Salvation Army. You folks truly change lives!”Marylynn Richner couldn’t agree more. The Red Bank resident has been a bell ringer for more than 50 years, star ting with her mother almost immediately after joining the Army. Practicing Baptists, Richner and her mother picked up her sister who was attending a Salvation Army service, and were so moved by the service Richner immediately wanted to join the Army. She’s been a soldier ever since.Always in Monmouth Mall, placidly sitting in her Salvation Army uniform just outside the mall entrance to Macy’s, Richner says she does the work every year because “I like to do the Lord’s work and He’s given me the strength to do it here.That’s a good enough reason for continuing.”The charming little lady with the soft voice and quick smile is at her post six hours a day, five days a week and loves it. “In fact,” she adds, “I can’t see anything I don’t like about it.” Sometimes, only a few people may come to drop coins or bills in her red kettle; other days she might be saying thank you and “God Bless You” to a 100 or more.Always ready to help someone in need, Richner said she’s also trained at the senior building where she lives to respond to emergencies such as floods or other disasters, assisting the fire or police department. Retired from the McCormick Company in Freehold since the plant closed many years ago, she loves her bell ringing job the most because “I’m able to help families in need.”Last year, over 1,500 people received assistance from the Red Bank Army’s food program, 650 households received holiday assistance for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and more than 500 children received Christmas gifts, which usually including apparel and footwear, from the Angel Tree Tag Program. Additional services included various children’s programs, social services and more than 400 meals provided through the Corps’ Bread of Life Community Kitchen. Funds raised during the Red Kettle Campaign are used to sustain the programs and services throughout the year.The Red Kettle drive started in the 19th century, when Capt. Joseph McFee launched it in San Francisco to provide Christmas dinner for the destitute. Since then it has evolved into one of the most recognizable and important charitable campaigns in the country.The Salvation Army itself is an evangelical part of the Christian Church established in England in 1865, and has been supporting those in need in this country for the past 130 years. The services of the Army ranged from providing food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, assistance to the disabled, outreach to the elderly and ill, as well as clothing and shelter for the homeless and opportunities for the underprivileged. Eighty-two cents of every dollar the Salvation Army spends supports these services in 5,000 communities across the country.