BRISTOL, Conn. (WTNH) — It began with a typical holiday greeting: “Merry Christmas.”
Salvation Army bell ringer Michael Stratford says it hundreds of times every day as people passing by drop donations into that iconic red kettle.
But as one man walked by on Monday, it was different.
“He walked past me and he took a step back and started unloading 20 [bills] into the bucket.”
He could tell it was a big donation, just not how much. Later that night, Salvation Army Captain Emmanuel Echavarria found the big surprise.
“I looked into the bucket and I saw 19 rolls, all $200, amounting to $3,820,” Echavarria said. His fellow kettle-counters were in tears.
The donation happened outside of the Walmart in Bristol — and it’s not the first time the Salvation Army chapter has received a generous surprise this season.
The night before Thanksgiving, three gold coins worth $4,050 were found in a kettle outside of Price Chopper in Bristol, and just last week they received an unexpected gift from ESPN — a brand new Mercedes Benz van.
But, unfortunately, as bell ringing season comes to an end, Bristol, like most Connecticut towns, fell short of their fundraising goals.
“The need is all year,” said Echavarria, “but as far as bell ringing season goes, we are behind on our goal.”
The money they raise stays local and that big bump at the end of the season will help all year long, including funding their soup kitchen and after school programs for kids.
“It’s a great privilege that the community in Bristol trusts us to take care of the people in need, and we do our best to not turn anyone away,” said Echavarria.