Help out with the bells

Published 10:19 pm Monday, November 21, 2011

For the next month or so, the Salvation Army bell-ringers will be all but impossible to miss. Stationed at the entrances to the area’s largest and most highly trafficked stores, they are one of the first things to remind people of the season and, sometimes, one of the things about the holidays many of us tire of first.

Everyone at some point must have looked for a second entrance to a store in order to avoid the gaze of the bell-ringer and the silent rebuke of his red collection kettle. Surely most, if not all of us, have feigned being short of cash or time as we passed the bell-ringer again on the way out of the store. But their work is important.

Most folks know that the money they donate to the Salvation Army’s kettle drive at Christmas helps the organization with a variety of projects, ranging from its well-known Christmas aid for families to daily community support for people who need help paying their rent, people who cannot afford to feed themselves and people who cannot pay their utility bills.

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The kettle drive is one of the organization’s biggest fundraisers of the year. It helps fund projects that reach far beyond the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. But it’s also an expensive program, as many of the bell-ringers are not volunteers and therefore must be paid for the time they stand with their kettles.

The Salvation Army has begun accepting online kettle donations as a way to help supplement their in-person collections and make up for some of the expenses. But there’s no substitute for catching people when they’ve got their wallets handy, and they’re already spending money, so the bell-ringers won’t be going away anytime soon.

There’s a way you can help reduce the cost of the program though: Volunteers are a significant part of the program. Every volunteer who takes a shift ringing a bell by a kettle translates into one shift from which kettle collections can go entirely to programs.

Volunteering to man a kettle for a shift or two also has another benefit: That guilty feeling you have when you pass by a kettle without donating is almost erased by the boost in self worth that comes from having helped out.

For more information on becoming a bell-ringer, call the organization’s Bank Street office at 539-5201.