Ringing for a cause

Published 9:13 am Wednesday, December 3, 2008

One of the traditional sounds of Christmas could be heard all over Albert Lea starting last week, as volunteers from all over the county started ringing bells to raise money for people in need.

Clad in red Salvation Army aprons with bells in hand, the volunteers are working to help the Albert Lea Salvation Army reach this year’s Red Kettle Campaign goal of $134,000.

All funds raised through the campaign help the Salvation Army with a myriad of assistance programs for the community, including after school and summer day care programs for low-income families, temporary shelter, rental and fuel assistance, a food pantry and budget counseling to help families achieve economic independence.

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While many of the bell ringers say they’re doing it for a good cause, many say it’s also an easy, fun way to give back to the people of the community. And it usually only requires a few hours of a person’s time.

“We do it every year,” said Lorraine Scott, who was volunteering at Hy-Vee Tuesday with the Tuesday Literary Club. “We’re a service club and are community-minded. It’s a good cause.”

Scott was volunteering with close friend Gloria Peterson, another member of the club. The two women graduated from high school in Alden together in 1942.

For them, their time ringing the bells was a time of fellowship and friendship.

“It’s a fun job here,” Scott said. “We see a lot of people we know.”

Other women from the Tuesday Literary Club were volunteering in two-hour shifts throughout the day on Tuesday. At other locations, there were volunteers from the Rotary Club and Trinity Lutheran Church as well.

“It’s a good project,” said Mildred Jensen, who started ringing for the club at noon.

The club’s members have been volunteering for at least six years.

Jensen said the time usually passes by quickly.

Down the street at Northbridge Mall a little later, David McPherson rang bells as a volunteer for Trinity Lutheran Church.

It was his first time volunteering.

“We think the Salvation Army is a good local organization,” McPherson said. “It helps a lot of people of Albert Lea.”

Though his shift was a little slow — being that it was the middle of the week in the middle of the day — he said he’s had a couple generous contributors.

He joked that his hand was getting tired from ringing the bell after a while, and he’d take a quick break when nobody was around.

While many of the volunteer bell ringing hours have been filled, the Salvation Army is still looking for volunteers throughout the season at the five different locations around town — Hy-Vee, Nelson’s Market Place, ShopKo, Northbridge Mall and Wal-Mart.

On Tuesday, there were only four volunteer hours open at Hy-Vee and around 30 hours or less each at ShopKo, Nelson’s Market Place and Northbridge Mall.

The most hours remain at Wal-Mart, which is the only completely outdoor bell ringing location.

Though there are probably at least 10 times as many hours available at Wal-Mart as there are at the second highest location, Capts. Jim and Lee Brickson have reassured people repeatedly that extra measures have been taken this year to assure that the people volunteering there will be more comfortable with an extra heater in the stand.

After all, if somebody’s not out at the different locations greeting the customers, people generally don’t donate there, Capt. Jim Brickson said.

He put a plea out for the generosity of the community, in volunteering and in financial donations.

While it’s a difficult year for everyone because of the economy, he said, “We know that we’ll make all the Lord intended us to make.”

For more information on becoming a Salvation Army bell ringer, contact the Salvation Army Office at 373-5710.