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Ringing in $78.84 an hour: Red Kettle workers have big year

Roger Schultz is a Salvation Army volunteer who has been ringing the bell for the about five years. His usual spot is outside Walmart, but sometimes he rings indoors like at the Viking Plaza Mall. (Echo Press file photo)

The holiday season may be over, but the Salvation Army has cause to celebrate.The results of the 2018 Red Kettle Campaign are in and it was another successful year.

At a thank you celebration for its bell ringing volunteers last week, Stu Mackechney with the local Salvation Army shared some statistics from last year's campaign, including the fact that 88 percent of the money raised stays in Douglas County.

The grand total raised during the 2018 campaign, which included four bell ringing stations, 33 counter kettles and money received after Dec. 23 (the last day for the kettles) was $82,749.06 — this was $8,578.93 more than the 2017 campaign, according to Mackechney.

"We were a little concerned going into this year, but saw the volunteer list and thought, 'We can do this.'" he said.

Mackechney said he was concerned because of store closings at the mall, which meant traffic would be down.

"We expected a decline, but we hoped for the best," he said. "All we can do is ring. People came through this year and we exceeded last year. This area is a remarkable place."

Mackechney told the volunteers that without them, however, it couldn't have been possible. At the four bell ringing locations — Cub Foods, Elden's Fresh Foods, Viking Plaza Mall and Walmart — volunteers rang the bell for 978 hours and raised $77,100.68, which averages out to $78.84 per hour.

Here's a breakdown of each location:

• Walmart: Bell ringing started on Nov. 24 and volunteers rang for 258 hours. Total amount raised was $27,633.31.

• Elden's Fresh Foods: Bell ringing started on Nov. 17 and volunteers rang for 248 hours. Total amount taken in was $27,624.41.

• Cub Foods: Bell ringing started on Nov. 17 and volunteers rang here for 224 hours. Total amount taken in was $11,819.82.

• Viking Plaza Mall: Bell ringing started on Nov. 17 and volunteers rang for 248 hours. Total taken in was $10,023.14.

The 33 counter kettles, placed at area businesses, brought in an additional $2,898.38 with $2,750 coming in after the bell ringing campaign was complete. In the last five years, the Red Kettle Campaign has raised more than $423,000.

"We are very pleased with these results," said Mackechney. "It's a pleasure working with all of you and a great way to honor Jennie's legacy by doing some great work."

Jennie Hevern, who passed away in March 2017, was the local Salvation Army coordinator for many years. Mackechney said the Salvation Army wants to continue the work Hevern did with the organization and honor her legacy.

He thanked the volunteers again, saying that need knows no season, volunteers are always needed, anyone is invited to the Salvation Army meetings and that he looks forward to working with the bell ringers again next year.

Five to seven calls a day

Joanne Lee, service extension director for the Salvation Army Northern Division, attended the thank you celebration for the bell ringers.

"Without you, the bell ringers, there wouldn't be a kettle campaign" said Lee, whose office is in Roseville. "Thank you so much for what you do."

Lee said her office receives "lots of calls" from Douglas County. She estimated anywhere from five to seven calls per day. She said the calls come from people who were maybe laid off from their job or their hours were drastically cut or, she said, maybe they had a medical emergency.

She explained that the Salvation Army takes a look at each situation and will try to dig deeper to see how the organization can best assist them. There are two primary ways the Salvation Army offers assistance — rent and utilities.

"We are considered the last resort for most situations," she said, noting that those needing assistance first have to go through West Central Community Action and then human services in the county they live in.

Oftentimes, she said, the Salvation Army will partner with the United Way when assisting those in need. She said the organization serves 128 countries across the world and that there are offices throughout the United States. Two percent of the money raised from the Douglas County Red Kettle Campaign goes to support world services, which is based in Chicago with 10 percent of the funds going to the territorial headquarters. The other 88 percent, she reiterated, stays in Douglas County.

Lee said the hope in the near future is to have a part-time person housed in Douglas County who would be available to help those in need in not only Douglas County, but Pope County as well. The goal right now, she said, is to first find a location and then find the right person to staff it.

Filling a gap

Jen Jabas, executive director of the United Way of Pope and Douglas Counties, also spoke at the celebration. She said the Salvation Army comes through when other organizations can't.

"We know how important they are," she said. "When needs aren't met, we know it is the Salvation Army that is filling in the gaps. It is one more place that we can send people to who are in need."

She said if a family's house burns down, the United Way will connect the family to the Salvation Army, who she said provides hope to those feeling hopeless.

Since 2007, the Salvation Army has been a grant recipient of United Way dollars, said Jabas, adding that each year, the United Way provides between $8,000 and $10,000 to the Salvation Army. She said the Stuff-the-Bus program is made possible through the Salvation Army as it provides the backpacks that are used for the program.

"There is no end to the great work and impact from the Salvation Army," said Jabas. "Thank you to all of you; you bring light to the needs in our community."

For more information or to reach out for help, go to www.salvationarmynorth.org/service-extension-program/central-minnesota/.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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