Albert Lea Bell ringer enjoys doing her part to help people in need

Published 1:52 pm Friday, December 2, 2022

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The bells are ringing, meaning it’s the holiday season. Julie Ann Ehlers was at Hy-Vee Wednesday morning doing just that for the Salvation Army. This is her 14th year bell-ringing.

“I love meeting people,” said Ehlers. “There’s friendly people.”

She also enjoyed working with little kids who volunteer to help while their parents shop, an observation that surprised her.

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“Quite a few younger people ask me why we do this, and I can say, ‘To help the kids at Christmas time with gifts, and that they needed help feeding the poor,’” she said.

Doing this has taught her people were generous, and that more people than she might expect help by donating.

Ehlers originally volunteered to see if she’d like it. And now she calls every year, taking the hours that can’t be filled.

“I’ve seen other people doing it, so I just thought I’d see if I like it,” she said.

And she enjoyed it so much she kept at it.

“Every year I call them and tell them I’ll do it,” she said.

In her time volunteering, Ehlers has rung at Trail’s Travel Center, what used to be Market Place Foods and for the last five or six years at Hy-Vee.

“The Salvation Army bell ringers are extremely important [and] valuable to us,” said Maj. Sandy Hunt of the Albert Lea Salvation Army. “We’re very appreciative of their service, of their willingness to help us and to help the community.”

She also said without their help the organization wouldn’t be able to raise the money necessary to operate.

“They’re special people who are willing to give their time and effort and energy to help us and to help others,” she said.

Hunt said despite the regular volunteers and service clubs who did this annually, there were still plenty of openings to ring bells. Volunteers are asked to ring for two hour shifts, though they’re welcomed to work longer.

To volunteer, visit or call Hunt’s office at 507-373-5710.

“It’s fun just to be by the kettle,” she said. “People greet you and you greet them. It’s a fun time, it’s a blessing, people know that you’re there for a good cause.”

“I wish more people would come out and volunteer and do this for a couple hours a day,” Ehlers said.

Before retiring, she worked at St. John’s Lutheran Community and before that at Thorne Crest Senior Living Community.


Want to be a bell ringer?

There are still opportunities available to volunteer through the Salvation Army. Visit or call 507-373-5710. Ringing locations include Hy-Vee, Bomgaars and Walmart in Albert Lea.