The Salvation Army's national leadership said it has never received a kettle donation as generous as the $500,000 check that was given over the weekend in Rosemount by donors who want to remain anonymous.

The charities' Twin Cities division revealed the donation on Monday, saying the check was placed Saturday into one of its signature red kettles at the Cub Foods on County Road 42, just east of Shannon Parkway.

The previous Twin Cities record for a single kettle donation was $25,000. A little perspective: Typically, a kettle takes in about $30 an hour, according to the charity.

The charity confirmed that the check cleared Monday but would not reveal the couple's identity. "We have been in touch with the donors, but they want to remain anonymous," Salvation Army spokeswoman Julie Borgen said. "This couple has supported the Army before with large checks in kettles, but never anything close to this level."

Borgen said the bell ringers at the store, Rosemount firefighters, were oblivious to the big gift. But the Salvation Army's major-gifts manager was notified of the incoming windfall a day or two in advance, she said, and picked up the kettle himself. The couple have given advance notice for their previous gifts as well, Borgen said, though she didn't know how many years they'd given.

The couple said they made the gift in hopes of encouraging others to also stretch their generosity and to honor one of their fathers, who served in the trenches in World War I and was grateful to the Salvation Army "doughnut lassies" who brought soldiers free coffee and doughnuts.

They said they were also inspired by memories from years ago of relying on discarded food from a grocery store to make ends meet.

"You get to a point in life where it's time to take care of others, the way you were taken care of," the donors said in a statement issued through the charity.

Maj. Jeff Strickler, the Salvation Army's commander for the Twin Cities, said, "We are simply stunned and honored to have received such a generous gift. This is a true blessing, and it could not come at a better time for the Salvation Army and the people we serve."

The $500,000 donation was confirmed Tuesday by the charity's national headquarters in suburban Washington, D.C., as the largest single kettle donation ever anywhere in the country.

The gift put a charge into the Twin Cities Salvation Army's goal of raising $11.6 million during its Christmas campaign. The charity has raised about $2.2 million so far, comparable to this time last year.

"We invite everyone to please give what they can," Strickler said. "Every dollar counts, and we only have 30 days left to meet our goal."

There is no indication, spokeswoman Borgen said, that the couple are behind the anonymous "St. Grand" donations that red kettles in the Twin Cities have been receiving in roughly $1,000 increments for the past five years.

"We truly don't know who St. Grand is," Borgen said.

St. Grand, whether one person or more than one, slipped $1,100 each into two kettles Friday in Roseville, one drop at a Lunds & Byerlys on County Road C and the other at Cub Foods on Larpenteur Avenue, according to the Salvation Army. The scenario repeated itself Saturday: same amounts, same locations. For the math-impaired, that's $4,400.

The Salvation Army is seeking bell-ringer volunteers to sign up for one of 575 kettle locations online at The charity is one of the largest providers of Christmas toys in the metro area, providing gifts for about 15,000 children. The charity also serves 1,200 hot meals every day, shelters nearly 900 people each night and provides groceries for more than 100,000 people annually.

Staff writer Emma Nelson contributed to this report.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482