OWATONNA — A week out from the start of the Red Kettle Campaign, and the local Salvation Army have found themselves distressed.
The Red Kettle Campaign enables the Salvation Army in Owatonna to provide practical assistance to individuals and families in need throughout the community. In 2018, the small red kettles accompanied by smiling volunteers ringing tiny bells collected $68,000.
“When you give to the Salvation Army, it’s one of the organizations where you know where your donation is going,” said Linda Seljeseth, the chair of the service unit for the local chapter of the Salvation Army. “You know it’s really going to help and do the most good.”
Due to unforeseen personnel changes, Seljeseth said that the nonprofit has misplaced their book that lists their volunteers over the last few years — specifically those who have given hours upon hours to the Red Kettle Campaign as bell ringers. Therefore, the Salvation Army has had to start over from scratch.
“We are desperate for bell ringers and desperate for help,” Seljeseth pleaded. “Every day I am able to write down a couple volunteers here or there, but it’s pretty much empty as far as scheduling. We have literally thousands of hours that still need to be filled.”
On Friday, Nov. 22, the kettles will be put out at Cash Wise, HyVee, and Farway grocery stores in Owatonna to kick off the campaign. The day after Thanksgiving the remainder of the kettles will be set up at Fleet Farm, Cabela’s, Walgreens, and Walmart to start collecting donations with volunteers ringing up until 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve – Tuesday, Dec. 24.
“I’m very nervous,” Seljeseth nervously laughed. “It’s hard enough to fill those spots, especially at Fleet Farm and Walmart, but now it’s getting so late and we’re starting over.”
When kettles go unattended, Seljeseth said in the past that they tend to remain empty. This year the Salvation Army is hoping to combat that with a new program they are rolling out next week.
“On our kettles this year, we will have signs that provide iPay and Google Pay codes,” Seljeseth explained. “This will give people who don’t have spare change with them still an option to give. Or if there is no bell ringer at the time people can easily scan the code.”
As society moves more and more away from cash purchases, the organization is adapting by accepting Apple and Google Pay at the Red Kettle locations. Shoppers need only to bump their phones against the kettle that showcase the QR codes and they will be directed to a page on their phone to make a donation. The new technology will then disperse the funds to the Salvation Army based on the zip code affiliated with the users pay app.
Seljeseth said that they are also making use of the Internet by allowing volunteers to register to ring bells online. Those interested in volunteering should go to SalvationArmyNorth.org and enter the 55060 zip code under the volunteering tab.
Interested parties may also call the Bell Ringer Hotline at 507-649-2703.
“Some people can’t give financially so this is how they give — by ringing the bell,” Seljeseth said. “That’s the best part of it all, giving out of your own heart and time.”
“In Steele County everyone is so generous,” she continued. “We as a service unit people make the most money as far as the Kettle Campaign and it’s because of our givers that makes that possible.”