ALPENA — The holidays for many in the Alpena area wouldn’t be as bright if it wasn’t for the devotion of the bell ringers to their communities.
Each year, a team of paid and volunteer bell ringers stand for hours alongside the red kettles outside local establishments collecting money, while patiently ringing their bell between donations.
Clad in red, the bell ringers spearhead The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign — the organization’s primary fundraiser each year, which helps pay for services to those in need year-round.
Salvation Army’s Major Prezza Morrison said this year’s fundraising goal is $160,000 — up $2,000 from last year. The gleeful bell ringers — who Morrison said have a passion for Christmas and helping others — play a big part in reaching that goal.
Lloyd McClung is a volunteer who sets up shop in front of the post office in Alpena to raise money for the cause.
He said the closer the holidays get, the more cheerful and giving people become. McClung pointed at the Salvation Army sign on top of the tripod that holds the red kettle and pointed at the slogan when asked why he gives of himself and his time to stand in the cold to raise money,
“Doing the most good. The Salvation Army has a great reputation and history and I get to be a part of that,” he said. “I think all Christians in this town should be supporting the Salvation Army because not only does it do a lot of good on a social level, but there is also a spiritual part as a component of it.”
Morrison said bell ringers often spend many hours standing in one location, braving the cold and wind to fill their red kettles. She said most do it with a smile on their face while interacting with their brothers and sisters in the community.
This year, Justin Hinkley, publisher and editor of The News, was named the Honorary Red Kettle Chairman. Hinkley got a taste of what bell ringers endure last weekend when he helped raise funds outside of Walmart.
He said the experience increased the amount of respect he had for the workers and volunteers.
“It was my first time being a bell ringer and it was freezing and the guy who was working the other entrance was there from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. I was only there for two hours,” Hinkley said. “These bell ringers do really good work in the cold, snow, and rain and make sure we collect money for the campaign.”
The money that is raised locally, stays local, Hinkley said. He said the Salvation Army’s services count on the donations received during the holiday season.
Some of those services include providing food, personal care items and clothing to those who need them, as well as helping people with utility bills, and helping with guidance to help families get back on their feet. It also helps with housing and helping families with the expense of getting school supplies for their children.
Morrison said as prices increase in stores and at the pump, more people in the Alpena area are seeking assistance, especially with people requesting help for the first time. She said many people are reluctant or too prideful to pursue help, but she said they shouldn’t feel that way.
“That is why the community gives to the Salvation Army. It helps to alleviate some of the stress they have on them,” she said. “We don’t want people to have to choose between paying their rent and getting groceries. We don’t want them to have to make those types of decisions because they are all necessities.”
This year, there are nine sites where the bell ringers are accepting donations. The fundraiser runs through Christmas Eve.
Hinkley said people can also drop off donations at the Salvation Army office and via their mobile device by using the QR code that is displayed near the red kettle. He said people can also donate their time and volunteer to be a bell ringer.
He said people can sign up to volunteer at registertoring.com where they can sign up for a time lot.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.
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