Hope marches on this Christmas – that is this year’s national slogan for the Salvation Army’s bell ringing campaign.

Ringers are already out and about in the Alexandria lakes area. And they will be through 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.

With the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Salvation Army is expecting an increasingly desperate need in the community.

“To meet this need, we are getting geared up even earlier than last year’s effort,” said Roger Schultz, who helps coordinate bell ringers in the area.

He also said that a new location has been added in this area. Bell ringers will be at Fleet Farm this year beginning on Monday, Nov. 29.

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And bell ringing has already started at Cub Foods, Elden’s Fresh Foods, Viking Plaza Mall and Walmart.

Another option for donating to the Salvation is by using the QR code. All people have to do is open their camera app and scan the QR code by focusing their phones camera on the code. The camera will read and open a window with a link to touch that will take them to the donation form on the website. It will work by scanning this photo, as well.
Echo Press file photo
Another option for donating to the Salvation is by using the QR code. All people have to do is open their camera app and scan the QR code by focusing their phones camera on the code. The camera will read and open a window with a link to touch that will take them to the donation form on the website. It will work by scanning this photo, as well. Echo Press file photo

Each location still needs people to ring the Salvation Army bell. Ringer captains have been set up for each location. Anyone interested in bell ringing should contact the following people:

Money raised from the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign goes to people in need right here in Douglas County – people who are struggling to pay the rent, insurance premiums, medical bills, utility bills, phone bills or even struggling to put gas in their car, food on the table or clothes for their children.

According to the Salvation Army website, 7.1 million Americans are behind on rent and 63% of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

Food insecurity continues to be a source of pain for a large portion of the population, as well. Families without access to nutritious meals are going hungry every day. There are about 20 million Americans who don't have enough food to eat, according to the Salvation Army’s website.

Pat and Bob Dahlheimer of the Alexandria Evening Lions Club work as bell ringers for the Salvation Army at Cub Foods on Friday morning.
Travis Gulbrandson / Alexandria Echo Press
Pat and Bob Dahlheimer of the Alexandria Evening Lions Club work as bell ringers for the Salvation Army at Cub Foods on Friday morning. Travis Gulbrandson / Alexandria Echo Press

What started in 1891 as one pot to collect funds to feed a free Christmas dinner to San Francisco’s destitute and poverty-stricken community has grown into the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle Campaign, one of the most impactful and iconic outreach initiatives in the world, year after year after year. To the homeless, the red kettles represent safe shelter from the streets. To the hungry, they promise a warm meal. To those struggling with addiction and alcoholism, they mean the possibility of a new life free of the bondage of chemicals.

During the 2020 campaign in Douglas County, there were 147 bell ringers who put in a total of 892 hours to help raise more than $99,000.

This past January, Donna Ortendahl, the Salvation Army field representative for this area, shared a few stories of how bell ringing and the funds that come from it have helped people locally. The people she assisted, whose names she couldn’t share, included a disabled, elderly man who needed help paying a bill for a busted water pipe; a young man and his fiance who needed a place to stay for the weekend as they had been living in their vehicle; an elderly woman who had been recently hospitalized and need to move from an upstairs apartment into a lower level unit and because of the hospitalization, had missed the deadline to move and was on the hook to pay for both apartments; and a homeless woman who desperately needed help finding a place to live.

She said each person who was helped by the Salvation Army were very thankful and grateful for the help they received.

The Douglas County Salvation Army's contact information is displayed at the donation stand in Cub Foods.
Travis Gulbrandson / Alexandria Echo Press
The Douglas County Salvation Army's contact information is displayed at the donation stand in Cub Foods. Travis Gulbrandson / Alexandria Echo Press

Ortendahl said she also works with other local organizations, agencies and businesses, such as Douglas County Social Services, Outreach Food Shelf and several others, to help those four individuals as well as the many others who are served by the local Salvation Army agency.

Unlike others who are specific in the help they provide, such as the food shelf, the Salvation Army can help pay bills, find housing, provide emergency assistance and more.

Besides putting money in the red kettles, donations can be mailed locally to: Salvation Army, c/o Viking Towers, 805 Fillmore, Alexandria, MN 56308 or cell phone users can text the word “KETTLES” to 91999.

For more information about the Red Kettle Campaign or the Salvation Army, contact Donna Ortendahl, the Salvation Army field representative for this area, at 651-746-3410 or donna.ortendahl@usc.salvationarmy.org or visit the Salvation Army website at salvationarmyusa.org/usn/.