Bell-ringing a familiar sound at holidaysVolunteers raise money for Salvation Army
WORTHINGTON — Ring-a-ding-a-ding. The sound of a small bell has heralded the Christmas season in several local shopping establishments this December.
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Ring-a-ding-a-ding.
The sound of a small bell has heralded the Christmas season in several local shopping establishments this December. It draws attention to the small red kettles that are a symbol of the Salvation Army and a place for donations to its mission of helping those in need, both physically and spiritually.
But in order to be heard, the bell needs to be rung, and it takes a large crew of volunteers to staff the kettles in the days leading up to Christmas.
“We’ve got five locations: ShopKo, HyVee, Runnings, Fareway and Ace Hardware,” explained Wally Scholten, local Salvation Army coordinator, adding that not all the locations can be staffed all the time. “Otherwise we’ve just got the kettles sitting there. I put them out the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and put them away right after Christmas. That takes a lot of volunteers.”
But where there is a bell ringer, there are more donations.
“If you don’t have anybody by the kettle, well, people are more apt to donate if there’s somebody by the kettle,” Scholten noted.
For a number of years, manning the Salvation Army kettles during the holiday season has been a project of the local Kiwanis clubs. But those ranks just aren’t enough anymore, and the schedulers have to venture farther afield to find willing volunteers. Gene Barber makes a lot of phone calls in order to fill out the two three-hour shifts, Monday through Saturday, at the Hy-Vee Food Store.
“Next year I ask the people who did it this year,” he said about how he begins the recruitment process. “It takes a lot of people for those 24 days. But everyone who does it really enjoys it. I’ve got one 91-year-old guy who does it. I’ve got some very devoted volunteers.
“And you can set the kettle right down in the middle of traffic, and nobody would put a blessed thing in it,” reiterated Barber about the importance of volunteers. “But you put a body there, and everybody coughs up some money.”
On a recent day at ShopKo, Don Jepperson was wearing the apron emblazoned with the Salvation Army logo and ringing the bell. A nearby chair offered a place to rest his feet when necessary.
“It’s fun,” said Jepperson, a Kiwanian who has been a bellringer for three or four years, logging several three-hour shifts each season. “People come in and talk, and the time goes by fast. It depends on the day. I’m surprised to see so many out people today, because of the weather.”
Retired teacher Bill Potts puts in hours for the Salvation Army at both ShopKo and Hy-Vee. He not only rings the bell during his shifts, but also sings, dances, kisses ladies’ hands and retrieves carts for shoppers. He makes up new words to standard carols to draw attention to the appeal for donations.
“Up on the housetop, reindeer paws, please give some money for a darn good cause.”
“Hark the herald angels sing, I’m here to ring, ring ring.”
“You see people you know, and I think it’s a very worthwhile cause,” said Potts. “And what’s nice about the Salvation Army is what is raised here stays here. I don’t think people know that.”
During a recent bell ringing stint, Potts had a young man come up to him and say, “The Salvation Army saved my life,” as he made a deposit in the kettle.
“There are usually some older guys who were in World War II who come up and say that the Salvation Army meant something to them,” said Scholten. “That’s the reason that they donate now.”
“The times I’ve done it, I’ve never heard anyone make a derogatory statement referring to the Salvation Army,” Barber noted.
Locally, Salvation Army funds are used to provide aid to people who may get stranded or find themselves in an emergency situation, provide backpacks for elementary school children and bring comfort to residents of nursing homes, among other projects.
For three years running, a Worthington Salvation Army kettle was the repository for a Krugerrand — a valuable South African gold coin that currently would be worth about $1,400. No such coin was found last year, but the local Salvation Army campaign still had one of its best years ever.
“We don’t set a goal, but last year we had $12,000-something, and it was of our better years,” Scholten said. “It will be a challenge to get more than that this year, but the way we’re going, we could. And that’s all because of so many dedicated bell ringers.”