SENECA — The Salvation Army of Oconee County kicked off its annual kettle campaign Friday morning at the Kmart off U.S. 123 in Seneca.

The day marked the official start to the Salvation Army red kettle season, which is the main, yearly fundraiser for the organization. Presiding over the celebration Friday were Sgts. Mike and Cathy Michels, the corps administrators of the Salvation Army of Oconee County.

“This morning we had a great turn out from the community as well as several notable dignitaries that came by,” Mike Michels said.

South Carolina State Sen. Thomas Alexander and state Rep. Bill Sandifer, both Oconee County Republicans, were in attendance and offered some encouraging words for the start of the kettle campaign. Miss Greater Pee Dee 2009, Gayla Brown, rang the bell for a while, Mike Michels said.

“We also had a visit from a very interesting chap by the name of Mr. Kettle, manned by Nathan Colbert, a big character dressed up like a kettle who rang bells and greeted folks,” Mike Michels said.

Four members of the Salvation Army Advisory Board also joined in the festivities by each taking a turn ringing the bell.

“The local advisory board plays a tremendous role in the Christmas Kettle Campaign by ringing bells, by volunteering for packing food boxes and food and toy distribution, and by soliciting other people to ring bells as well,” Mike Michels said.

Oconee County is one of the few Salvation Army units, he said, to have a 100 percent volunteer bell-ringing effort.

“The advisory board Christmas committee chairman, Curt Davis, does a phenomenal job organizing this amazing schedule,” Mike Michels said.

Capt. Stan Colbert and Gilbert Kapp from the Salvation Army in Greenville came to help boost the kick-off event.

“We had a small Salvation Army brass band, which apparently is a first in Oconee County,” Mike Michels said. “The local Salvation Army band played several Christmas songs for all of those in attendance.”

The local band members were Ann Bennett, Ken Bennett, Joe Rodgers, Lee Michels and Mike Michels.

The Salvation Army Kettle Campaign will run through Dec. 24