Salvation Army bell ringers to return, but volunteers needed

By on November 8, 2017

The Salvation Army is looking for not a few good men and women, but many good men and women, with support from clubs, churches, and employers to bring back a seasonal tradition that has been on hiatus locally — the famous bell ringers that have become one of many traditional symbols of Christmas.

And they need volunteers to come forward quickly.

Before you know it, the usual harbingers of Christmas will make their presence known: decorations, Christmas trees, holiday parties, Black Friday, seasonal music, and movies, and of course Santa Claus.

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But there’s something different about those Salvation Army bell ringers.

While they portend the approach of Christmas, they also remind us of the more spiritual and charitable aspects of the holiday in contrast to the season’s more commercial attributes.

Money raised from bell ringing helps purchase toys and other items for those less fortunate among us. The funds are also used year-round to help families pay expenses who have suffered financial or other hardships.

Thus, volunteering to be a bell ringer helps create a gift that truly keeps on giving.

For many years, a local chapter of the Lions Club headed up the massive effort to recruit and deploy volunteers at local grocery and discount stores.

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But over the past few years, event organizers realized they were getting older and fewer, and younger people were not joining and volunteering in the same numbers as before.

And so they were forced to give up their organizing efforts and the bell ringers had all but disappeared from our sandbar.

Enter Capt. Kenny Igleheart, Corps Officer for the Salvation Army in Elizabeth City, whose region includes the Outer Banks.

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Capt. Igleheart recruited a Dare County coordinator, Richard Stone, and together they are trying to rebuild the network of individuals and organizations that supplied the bulk of the volunteers who rang the bells and tended the red kettles.

But individuals with a broad knowledge of how the process was put together have been hard to find, so Igleheart and Stone are asking for help.

They have already made significant progress.

Bell ringers will start appearing Nov. 17 and work through Dec. 23.

Different locations have agreed to different start and finish dates, but overall, the bell ringers will be working Tuesday through Saturday at most locations, and weekends only at Food Lion locations.

Locations that have been secured include all four Food Lion stores, WalMart, K-Mart, both Harris Teeter locations, and there are plans to add the Food-A-Rama in Manteo.

With some locations operating five days a week and others just Friday through Saturday, there are plenty of opportunities for individuals to find times to ring the bell.

Typical assignments are two hours at a time, and many individuals sign up for more than one bell-ringing session.

Clubs, churches, employers, neighborhoods and other groups can play an even greater role by agreeing to supply volunteers to cover a single day (or more) at a specific location.

If enough volunteers are not found, Capt. Igleheart told us they may need to acquire paid bell ringers, which of course, takes away from the funds that can be used to help others.

Many of us have had the pleasure of ringing these bells.

It’s a great way to meet friends, old and new, and volunteers often find that when people know the bell ringer, they are more apt to open their hearts and contribute more freely.

The Outer Banks has proven itself time and again to be the wellspring of generosity, and when it comes to helping those in need, there isn’t a community that holds a candle to this ribbon of sand.

So we’re hopeful sufficient individuals and groups will come forward to fill the ranks of bell ringers once more.

Volunteers should contact Richard Stone at 252-339-7240.

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