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VOL. 125 | NO. 225 | Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bell-Ringers Poised to Begin Holiday Season

JONATHAN DEVIN | Special to The Daily News

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Jingle bells and silver bells aren’t the only sounds gearing up for the season.

The Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle Campaign has bell-ringers manning storefronts across Shelby County all hoping to hear the sweet jingle of coins.

Organizers said that the campaign is one of the few nonprofit fundraising efforts to grow significantly through the recession.

“It is the common man’s way of supporting this organization,” said Major Mark Woodcock, area commander for the Salvation Army. “Some people would be surprised by how much money they get in the kettle over a season.”

Last year the kettle campaign raised $457,178, up from $156,000 in 2004, all in cash donations. This year’s goal for the 30 days of bell-ringing, which begins Friday, is $480,000.

Because the campaign focuses on pocket change or other small donations, even the poor feel able to donate. Wealthier donors may have had to cut back on larger gifts to other campaigns, but dropping change in a kettle still appeals to them too.

Another reason the campaign does well during a recession is that it has already survived several recessions already.

In 1891, Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee of San Francisco began the practice of setting out kettles in high traffic areas to collect money after getting the idea from a similar practice he saw in England.

By 1901, Salvation Army Corps were using kettles from California to New York. Today kettles are used in Japan, Chile and several European nations.

Volunteers ring bells outside of big box retail stores like grocery stores at about 70 sites across Shelby County. Ringing takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Each site is coordinated by a volunteer “day captain” who schedules friends and family to work in shifts throughout their assigned day.

“The key is to have that volunteer who is passionate about it and who coordinates it,” said Woodcock. “When you find that person, great things happen. That’s our challenge. Once we get that person, they’re usually back year after year.”

One such volunteer is Ron McSwain, coordinator for volunteers from Germantown Baptist Church. Volunteers from Germantown Baptist have rung bells for about seven years, and McSwain encourages volunteers bring their families and to get creative.

“One fellow is a trumpet player and he brings his trumpet and he plays,” said McSwain. “He got permission to do that so he plays Christmas music on his trumpet. We like to have kids out ringing the bell with their parents because we find that people are ready to give to kids.”

Germantown Baptist’s bell-ringers work on Saturdays outside the Schnucks stores on Farmington Boulevard and Forest Hill-Irene Road, the Kroger on Exeter Road, the two entrances at Walmart in Collierville and the Hobby Lobby stores in Germantown and Collierville.

“We don’t focus on the people who don’t give,” said McSwain. “They may not be able to give. They may have already given somewhere else. We smile at them and wish them a Merry Christmas. We’re just grateful for the ones who do give.”

In 2009 the group raised about $8,000, or 22 percent of all money raised by volunteers in the campaign.

But last year tragedy marred the spirit of giving when Major Philip Wise of Little Rock was shot to death in front of his three children outside of a Salvation Army facility on Christmas Eve. The motive was robbery.

“This year we’ve really heightened security,” said Woodcock. “We have always had security procedures in place.”

McSwain said that helping others often involves risks but it is necessary nonetheless.

“There was a college-educated mother who lost her job and everything else,” said McSwain. “She had no place to stay so she’s staying at the Salvation Army with her child in a safe, warm place. So we’re helping that mother. It’s a ministry that we believe in.”

Proceeds from the campaign go into the Salvation Army’s general fund, which is used to support a shelter for women and children, rehabilitation programs for adults, arts education programs, meals for seniors and the Angel Tree program that provides Christmas gifts for the poor.

Volunteers are needed throughout the campaign to serve as a day captain. Call Stacie Glover at 260-9135 to volunteer.

PROPERTY SALES 124 481 17,865
MORTGAGES 127 530 20,565
BUILDING PERMITS 195 891 36,836
BANKRUPTCIES 52 262 11,426