The Salvation Army is always a familiar site every holiday season, with their red kettle on display, somebody ringing a bell, and sometimes Santa is near by helping collect.  The Red Kettle Campaign this holiday season saw record setting donations for the 2011 holiday season.

The Salvation Army finished its 120th year of holiday collections  - from its modest start on the wharf in San Francisco to its 25,000 kettles across America this past holiday - with a record breaking $147.6 Million in donations.  This number is about 3 1/2% higher than 2010, despite the economic problems that have been apparent around the country.

According to Wikipedia, The Salvation Army is one of the world's largest providers of social aid helping more than 32 million people in the U.S. alone.  In addition to community centers and disaster relief, the organization does work in refugee camps, especially among displaced people in Africa.

This organization in now over 146 years old, and not without controversy.  Alleged discrimination against homosexuals in their hiring practices came to light several years back.  The Salvation Army claims they were "not trying to get permission to discriminate against hiring gays and lesbians for the majority of its roughly 55,000 jobs and merely wanted a federal regulation that made clear that the charity did not have to ordain sexually active gay ministers and did not have to provide medical benefits to the same-sex partners of employees" (from the New York Times about 10 years ago).

Following this firestorm, the Salvation Army approved a plan in October 2001 to start offering domestic-partnership benefits to gay employees, but some boycotting has happened over the last decade.

The Salvation Army can be found in 120 countries, and their thrift stores have locations in Atlantic City (2), Vineland, Bridgeton, and Toms River.