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Faceless philanthropy fosters fuzzy feelings

<p>A kettle on display as Salvation Army Elgin Corps celebrate the start of the holiday season at their Red Kettle Campaign Kick-Off Ceremony at Otto Engineering in Carpentersville. November 14, 2012. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media</p>

A kettle on display as Salvation Army Elgin Corps celebrate the start of the holiday season at their Red Kettle Campaign Kick-Off Ceremony at Otto Engineering in Carpentersville. November 14, 2012. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media

Call it dumb luck.

It might not be a common experience, but Friday the 13th tends to go pretty well for me. Maybe I just stubbornly make it go that way, determined not to let a number on the calendar arbitrarily chart the course of a day. Or maybe I’m just stupidly fortunate.

Regardless, this Friday is what I hope will be a red-letter day for the bell ringers around here.

You may already know that there’s an extra dash of magic to the holiday season in Naperville. It comes in the form of an impressive piece of gold that someone quietly slips into a Salvation Army kettle, asking for no acknowledgment, seeking no thanks. It feels safe to call it a bit of a tradition, after it happened for the third year in a row last week, when a South African gold Krugerrand worth about $1,300 once again turned up in the pot outside Casey’s Foods, at Gartner Road and Washington Street in Naperville.

And now, yet another benefactor who shall not be named has returned. This benevolent backer — who anonymously slipped some $20,000 into various kettles around town last year, Salvation Army people say — has again pledged to match all Red Kettle donations up to $5,000 at Casey’s, the neighboring Trader Joe’s store and the Jewel at Boughton and Weber roads in Bolingbrook.

That’s it. You toss in a dime, and so will the silent St. Nick. Quarter? Done. Krugerrand? Bring it on.

It could be just me being a Christmas-season sap, but this display of magnanimity just fills my heart with joy. We live in a time when it’s considered perfectly normal and acceptable to share every miniscule accomplishment through one social medium or another, giving the world an extreme close up of what we had for lunch, the latest cute thing our kid said, or just how agile we are when it comes to patting ourselves on the back.

In contrast, these donors don’t want anybody to know who they are. No. One. How cool is that?

Their quiet generosity couldn’t come at a better time.

Because Thanksgiving this year landed on the latest possible date for the fourth Thursday in November, we were thrust into relative last-minute mode on the holiday season. Salvation Army officials around here say that’s mostly why their donations are down by around 8 percent compared to last year’s progress. They’ve a ways to go yet to reach the $13 million goal set for this year.

The giving goes far: across the metro Chicago region, the agency served more than 106,000 people during the 2012 holiday season. In the past year it served up some 1.5 million meals, lent emergency help to 118,000 people in crisis, and provided 23,500 days of child care so parents could find work or go to their jobs.

I know I just nagged you last week about sharing your good fortune, and all the many ways that make it pretty much impossible not to give something away to someone you don’t know somewhere. This is a much more straightforward plea. It’s not complicated, and it’s not like you have to make the time to sit down with the checkbook and then dig up a stamp. Just reach into your pocket the next time you breeze past that pleasant person clanging the bell alongside the iconic red vessel, and drop in some dough. A cheery “Merry Christmas!” or seasonal greeting of your choice wouldn’t be a bad thing to toss into the mix as well.

If you’d love to help but would rather give remotely than brave the brutal cold, you can go to www.salarmychicago.org or call 800-825-2769. Call it a virtual “Merry Christmas.”

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