Charity delivers high-tech message

The famous Salvation Army Red Kettle is synonymous with bell-ringing volunteers outside grocery stores, but now the campaign has a little more rock 'n' roll.

Rock the Red Kettle concert was broadcast live online as young performers Emily Osment from Disney Channel's "Hannah Montana," singer Ashlyne Huff, New Hollow, One Call, Savvy and Stevie Brock met a crowd of young fans Wednesday night at the Americana at Brand.

This was the first benefit show to raise awareness through the Salvation Army's text-to-give program, which allows donors to text the word "GIVE" to 85944 and make a $10 donation to the Salvation Army of Southern California. This is the first time the organization employed live-streaming online and through texting.

The organization serves 30 million people each year," said Salvation Army Major George Hood.

"There are still 14 million people unemployed, and that means there are a lot of families that are going to be impacted by that economy, children who won't have Christmas unless you give," Hood said. "The Salvation Army raises enough money to make sure that we're able to take care of those kinds of families."

The Salvation Army works with a variety of media and technological approaches. In 2005, the virtual Red Kettle program began inviting donors to sponsor their own red kettle, Hood said.

"I have experimented with a lot of things over the years and tried to be on the cutting edge, particularly with technology," Hood said. "We have never staged a rock concert at any time."

The 140-year-old organization wants to involve kids and teens that will volunteer and donate one day, he added.

"It's an innovative way to connect with emerging generations," Hood said. "They see us, they know we exist, but when you ask them what we do, they can't answer that question. In future years, they will be those loyal donors that we need to sustain our work."

Bell ringers with red kettles passed through the Americana to raise additional awareness by accepting donations for toys, food boxes and holiday meals before and while the bands performed onstage.

One Call, the electronic-infused, dance-pop foursome, performed for the first time on the West Coast. Band members Chris Moy, Anthony "AG" Gamlieli, Jose Bordonada and Justin Thorne are based in Florida.

Their devoted fans found out about the event through Facebook and Twitter.

"It's cool because I think a lot of our fans found out about this from us tweeting, so it's like we don't have to do all this promotion anymore," Thorne said. "We do, but it's simple now. It's a couple thumb-taps and you're good."

When the group first found out about the concert, it was drawn to its message.

"It's really quite phenomenal how it all works nowadays," Moy said. "Before, you'd go to a department store and you see a person just ringing the bell, and sometimes people really won't pay attention to them. But you can get on Twitter, you can text people [to donate]."

Social networking is a large way the band promotes its new single "Blacklight" and how they raised awareness for the Rock the Red Kettle concert.

"Everybody uses the Internet nowadays for just regular stuff that sometimes just doesn't even matter, and now you can raise awareness through social networks," Bordonada said.

Crystal Bobadilla, a 16-year-old who attends Eagle Rock High School, was there to see One Call.

"In the beginning I didn't know it was about charity, and I thought it was a good cause," Crystal said. "It touched me. I'm excited to see the other bands."

Los Angeles County High School for the Arts student Sharon Mena came to see the concert and tweet about it.

"This is really unique because there are a lot of fans around the world, and this is a good way to see it," Sharon said.

The live broadcast is one way the Salvation Army hopes to raise money for its services, Hood said.

"We promised America that we would do the most good for the most people with the most needs, and this is what that's all about," Hood said.

Donations to the Salvation Army Red Kettle can still be made by visiting http://www1.usw.salvationarmy.org/usw/www_usw_southcal.nsf.

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