Bells will ring outside six Rice County businesses as the Rice County Salvation Army counts down to Christmas with its annual Red Kettle Campaign. And there’s plenty of open slots for volunteer bell ringers.
Bell ringing began Friday and continues through Tuesday, Dec. 24 at various locations in Faribault, Northfield and Lonsdale. Participating businesses in Faribault include Wal-Mart, which counts as two locations with north and south entrances, Hy-Vee and Fareway Foods. The two Northfield locations are Cub Foods and Family Fare while Lonsdale’s one location remains Mackenthun’s Fine Foods.
Hours vary by location, beginning at 9 or 10 a.m., and volunteers may sign up for two-hour slots as many times as they wish. The Salvation Army provides the bells, red kettles and aprons for individuals or groups such as Rotary and 4-H clubs.
Although the Red Kettle Campaign has been a long-standing tradition in Rice County and across the nation, Ed Little, contact person for the local campaign, said the effort generates less than it once did.
“We’ve been coming up a little bit short each year,” said Little. “The main reason is we don’t have enough people to man the bell. If we could put somebody on for ringing the bell, the Salvation Army tells us we could average $60 per hour per kettle.”
Although the Red Kettle Campaign is the main fundraiser for the Salvation Army, Little said the Board of Directors for the Rice County service unit is exploring additional options for fundraiser events. With over 500 slots open each year for bell ringing, he said last year only about one third of the slots were filled.
Gina Yetzer, of Faribault, a former Salvation Army service coordinator for Rice County, said her passion for the organization continues even after stepping down from her role. This year, she’s signing up bell ringers through her work with the Faribault Evangelical Free Church.
“I’m still very involved because I believe in their philosophy and how they help our community,” said Yetzer.
Eighty-eight cents of every dollar raised comes back to Rice County, and the Salvation Army designates those funds to general social services work. Over 300 individuals are served with the emergency assistance the Salvation Army provides, including shelter, gas, prescription medications and transportation.
“There’s no fundraising efforts, school programs, associations where that amount goes directly back to the people it’s servicing,” said Yetzer.
One of the programs to benefit from the Red Kettle Campaign is Shop with a Cop, which pairs at-risk youth with a law enforcement officer to shop for winter gear at the Faribault Wal-Mart and the Northfield Target. The Salvation Army also sends children and teens to its summer camp and uses the funds to host annual root beer float socials at local nursing homes.
Most of the funding, said Little, is handled by a social worker who attends to cases at the Salvation Army in Faribault while an employee at the Community Action Center in Northfield helps manage funds for that community. The social worker might use the funds generated through the Red Kettle Campaign to help an individual pay for groceries or clothes while they’re out of work or if they need to pay for equipment for a new job. If individuals fall into the same situation month after month, the social worker refers them to different agencies that specialize in long-term help.
“We’re trying to help people improve, not just put a Band-Aid on the problem,” said Little.
The last couple years, Little said the social worker only had $35,000 to use within Rice County for the year.
“Thirty-five thousand dollars sounds like a lot, but there’s a lot of stuff we help with,” said Little. “We have, on a case by case basis, helped with rent.”
Ideally, Little said a couple $100,000 would help the Salvation Army fulfill its services within Rice County. It’s why he encourages residents to sign up for a Red Kettle shift.
“It’s an easy way for people to help others,” said Little. “All we’re asking for is two hours of their time to ring the bell … We encourage parents or grandparents to bring kids and sing carols; we’ve had some people play instruments. Whatever you’re comfortable with, and just be friendly and greet the people.”