Ringing to raise money'Tis the season for bells — church bells, sleigh bells, jingle bells, silver bells and even the “Carol of the Bells.”
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
'Tis the season for bells — church bells, sleigh bells, jingle bells, silver bells and even the “Carol of the Bells.”
There’s a reason bells are heard everywhere this time of year.
“That’s what really brings the spirit,” explained Nadine Holbert, longtime manager of the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Red Wing.
If bells elicit holiday cheer and generosity, it’s no wonder why volunteers ring them in front of thousands of stores every December while collecting donations for the Salvation Army.
The tradition began more than a century ago in England when a Methodist minister started doing it to raise money for those less fortunate.
“At that time there were so many homeless people. And there still are, but I don’t think we realize how bad it was years and years ago,” Holbert said.
Bell ringing was brought to the United States in the early 1900s and holds strong today. This year’s local bell ringers began Friday outside Walmart and Econofoods in Red Wing.
As she struggled to find volunteers earlier in the season, Holbert thought of people who have taken part in the past. Her grandson has been up to the task ever since he was little, so Holbert decided to ask him and his teammates on the seventh-grade Red Wing boys basketball team if they would be interested.
“I immediately thought it was a great idea and it would be a good experience for our kids,” Coach Corey Tauer said. “A lot of them get the opportunity to volunteer time, whether through church or school, and it’s just another chance for them to volunteer.”
The team is made up of 10 boys, six of whom were in town for the holidays and got the opportunity to help out.
Local bell ringing continues today and will remain at Walmart and Econofoods every Friday and Saturday until the weekend before Christmas, Dec. 21 and 22, but will be done by different volunteers. Shifts run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 1 to 3 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m.
The annual activity brings community members together as service groups, firefighters, law enforcement officials and regular citizens offer to ring bells.
Holbert said she often sees older people volunteering, but knows that as they age it gets harder for them to stand outside in the cold Minnesota weather.
“I’m trying to get more volunteers and I’m trying to get young people involved,” she said, adding that interested parties are welcome to call her at the Salvation Army.
The money that’s collected at season’s end will go to people who “need a little helping hand,” Holbert said, adding that it may pay for someone’s rent, food or electric bill. With no administration costs to cover, the entirety of the proceeds will stay in Goodhue County.
Not only will local citizens benefit from the bell ringing, but the bell ringers are likely to get something out of the experience as well, Holbert said.
“I hear so many people say, ‘It just makes my Christmas start out right.’”