The Salvation Army Kettle bell ringers are ringin’; are you listening? The iconic bell ringers have a goal in mind; are you listening?
More than 200 kettle ringers began standing at their posts around the East Valley on Friday, including Basha’s and Fry’s grocery stores, Walmart, Walgreens and Sam’s Club.
The Salvation Army, which is always looking for more volunteers to help ring the bells from now until Dec. 24, hopes to raise as much, if not more, money than it did last year ($492,000) during challenging economic times.
“It’s a time of giving,” said Major Robert Deidrick, who has been with the Salvation Army for more than 25 years. “This raises money and an awareness to the needs of people during the holidays. During this time of year, we give people the opportunity to help others. People need help. I’m surprised the contributions we have received have stayed the same and we have stayed within our budgets. We’re appreciative of the giving and the locations we are allowed to stand in front of. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do a lot of the things we’re able to do as this is our biggest fundraiser of the year.”
Of every dollar raised, 83 cents goes toward supporting the Salvation Army’s programs.
Last year, the Salvation Army raised $101,000 in Tempe from its bell ringing and has a goal of raising $140,000 this year, said Capt. Robin Bridego, who oversees the bell ringers there.
In Mesa, $240,000 was raised last year.
Bell ringers collected $152,000 in the Chandler, Gilbert and Sun Lakes areas last year, and that’s at least what they would like to raise this year, Deidrick said.
The money raised goes to various Salvation Army programs — helping those who need help paying their rent, utilities or basic needs such as food as well as programs for kids such as camping trips. The Salvation Army also helps the homeless and pays a number of its bell ringers $8, but would like to have more volunteers.
Bridego was quick to point out that the ringers are a tradition that was started in San Francisco in 1891 by a group of people using a boiling pot to collect money so they could get something to eat.
The concept caught on, and today, red kettles outside businesses are a familiar site around the nation with the sound of bells.
“I feel called by the Lord to serve the needy and to help those who are less fortunate than myself,” Bridego said. “It’s a hard job. A lot of people give it up after a week because they have trouble standing on their feet and smiling all day, but we always get it done. The more volunteers we have, the more we’re able to do that.”
“It’s a busy time of year, but it’s always fun,” Bridego added.
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