For whom the bell tolls

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Delinda Johnson was stationed outside a Bossier grocery store last week, collecting donations for the Salvation Army as part of their regular bell ringer program.

Salvation Army bell ringers collect money for children in need

The ringing of bells will once again greet shoppers this holiday season as The Salvation Army kicks off its annual Red Kettle Campaign.

Seasonal workers and volunteers can be seen (and heard) outside area businesses with their infamous red kettles, ringing hand-held bells in hopes of attracting those passing by and encouraging them to dig deep into their pockets.

It’s a traditional and simple approach to fundraising. Patrons can stop by the red kettle and drop any amount of money they desire.

Robert Morgan, campaign coordinator, said this year’s collecting is already off to a good start. There are currently 38 red kettle locations in the Bossier-Shreveport area, places including grocery stores, supermarkets and clothing stores.

First year bell ringer Delinda Johnson was stationed outside a Bossier City grocery store’s main entrance, greeting customers and wishing those who stopped a blessed day. The red kettle quickly filled up with money and coins from donors of all ages, giving her something else to smile about on a cold, dreary day.

“It’s worth it when you are doing something good for the community,” Johnson added.

Bell ringers stand their post for up to 10 hours a day, six days a week, braving the elements as Mother Nature presents them – sleet, snow, rain or wind. However, Johnson said she doesn’t mind braving the weather because she dresses with many layers and drinks hot chocolate to keep her warm.

Plus, she finds it rewarding and heartwarming to do something good for the community.

“I’m here for the children,” she said with a smile. “I don’t think about the cold too much when I have something like that to think about. That’s what gets me out of bed and wanting to come back day after day.”

The Red Kettle Campaign began in 1891 when a lone Salvation Officer in San Francisco, dressed in an 1890s era uniform, had hopes of raising enough money to provide a free Christmas dinner to the poor. The campaign gradually spread throughout the United States and eventually to other parts of the world, providing toys for kids, coats for the homeless, food for the hungry and countless social service programs year-round.

It continues a century later, spreading holiday cheer to millions of people in need across the country during the Christmas season and beyond.

Locally, donations helped more than 6,000 children in the area last year. While they don’t necessarily set a monetary goal, Morgan said the goal every year is to continue helping as many families as they can.

“No child should go without a gift on Christmas,” he said. “All of the money that we take in goes to helping local families. Times are hard right now and there are a lot of people who have lost their job or have been without a job for some time now. We try to take a little stress off them and give them a reason to be happy on Christmas.”

The Shreveport-based Salvation Army received an unexpected donation in December 2010 from an anonymous source, who made a $100,000 donation in a single kettle. Morgan said that any donation amount, big or small, will make an impact in the community.

The red kettles and bell ringers will be outside Bossier City businesses now through Christmas Eve, Dec. 24. The money they collect through public donations will be used by The Salvation Army in Shreveport to fund programs and services that help local families in need.

On behalf of the Salvation Army, Morgan expressed his sincerest thanks for the continued generosity of donors in the Bossier-Shreveport area.

“Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for everything you have. Christmas is the time for giving back. The holiday season really brings out the best in people.”

The Red Kettle Campaign is just one of the ways the Salvation Army spreads holiday cheer. Their Angel Tree program also provides new clothing or toys for children of needy families through the support of donors.

Angel Trees are decorated with numbered paper angel tags with the first name, age and gender of a child in need of presents. Contributors remove one or more tags from the tree and purchase appropriate gifts for the child or children described on the tags.

For more information on these programs or to become a volunteer bell ringer, contact the Salvation Army at (318) 424-3200 or visit them online at www.salvationarmyshreveport.org.

The Salvation Army is located at 200 East Stoner Avenue in Shreveport.