Ring those bells!
While walking through the parking lot to a store to do some holiday shopping, have you ever heard the harmonious ringing of bells?
That sound comes from the cheerful and dedicated bell ringers of The Salvation Army.
These devoted individuals stand outside at our shopping centers and retail stores to ring the bells in high hopes of filling red kettles with large sums of money every Christmas season.
Roger Bakewell of Alexandria, one of many local ringers, has been a dedicated ringer for the past six years.
He volunteered to ring the bell a few times while still working. It was after his retirement that he decided to devote himself to it full time each Christmas season. Six years later, Bakewell is now the chairman of the ringing kettle campaign.
Bakewell said he devotes his time to ringing to help others in need of money and assistance.
"I am a bit selfish, too; I also ring to see a lot of the people," he said.
Most of his ringing is done at Wal-Mart, but kettles are also in place at Kmart and the Viking Plaza Mall in Alexandria.
Bakewell rings around 60 hours a year and generally his longest shift is four hours a day.
Jennie Hevern, Salvation Army kettle volunteer coordinator, said that approximately $50,000 was raised locally during last year's kettle campaign. In the past 10 years, annual donations have increased from $9,000 to $50,000.
This continuous increase in donations is due to the awareness of people donating. All the proceeds stay local and benefit the Douglas County area, according to Hevern.
Donations are used for food, rental assistance, utilities, and to help people who are homeless and in need of assistance.
Hevern said that the number of people volunteering for kettle ringing has also increased each year. People have the urge to help out and donate more each time.
In the Douglas County area it takes anywhere from 150 to 200 volunteers each year to help ring the bells. Each shift is roughly two to four hours. Volunteers ring the bells and greet people while having fun. These volunteers are critical to the program's success, said Hevern.
An average ringer brings in $35 to $50 an hour. If the need for volunteers is not filled, then donations are lost.
With the holiday cheer in everyone's hearts, who can't help but think of the ringers when the sweet and beautiful sound of the bell chimes through the air?
Stop and take a second to donate some pocket change and to thank those individuals who help to fill that little red kettle.
Ring the bells
Sign up to ring the bell for the Douglas County Salvation Army Christmas Red Kettle Campaign.
Ringers needed November 21 through December 24.
Roger, (320) 304-1273 to ring at Walmart (outside).
Dave, (320) 304-1255 to ring at Kmart.
Art, (320) 763-5089 to ring at the Viking Plaza Mall.
Make a donation
Donations can be dropped in kettles located at Walmart, Kmart or the Viking Plaza Mall in Alexandria, or mailed to:
Salvation Army Douglas County
2808 Government Point Road NE
Alexandria, MN 56308
History of the Red Kettle
The tradition of the red kettle dates to 1891, when Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee made a commitment to provide a free Christmas dinner to the poor in San Francisco.
Once he made the decision to do this, he struggled with how he would pay for the dinners. An idea came to him from his sailor days in Liverpool, England. At Stage Landing, where the boats came in, there was a large kettle called Simpson's Pot, where passers-by could toss in money to help the poor.
McFee's idea caught on and red kettles can be found from coast to coast. Today, The Salvation Army helps more than 4.5 million people from Thanksgiving to Christmas. To learn more about The Salvation Army, visit its website at www.thesalarmy.com.