Salvation Army bell ringers kick off campaign




It's a lofty goal, but Robert DeLeon, community center director and youth program director of the Salvation Army, believes it can be accomplished: The organization hopes to raise $75,000 with its Red Kettle Campaign, which got under way Friday.

"I know this community can do it. I know that if I can rally this community and get them on board that we can raise that kind of money, and we can help families in this community," DeLeon said.

He said that the volunteers will be one of the most important components to having a successful campaign this year.

"We're still recruiting volunteers every day to go out there. I need volunteers. I mean the more that I have volunteer, the easier it is. We're just hoping that they will get the spots filled as quickly as possible," he said.

DeLeon has been in contact with the schools, Garden City Community College, churches and community organizations in his recruitment efforts. He said he asks volunteers to put in a minimum of two hours at a time.

Bell ringers who contribute 10 or more hours of their time will receive T-shirts that say "I took a stand to give others hope."

"And if they volunteer 25 hours or more, they get another T-shirt that's like a prestigious T-shirt that I'm designing right now, so there are some incentives for people to volunteer," he said.

The bell ringing sites are located at Walgreens, Walmart, Sam's Club, Dillons East, Dillons West, JCPenney and Sears. The total hours at each site are from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Spending time at a kettle site is a great family activity, DeLeon said.

"If you and your kids want to go out and spend two hours at a time at a kettle site, greeting people, knowing that the money you raise is making a difference in others' lives, it's a great teaching tool for your children about what it is to give back to others," he said.

Judith Ventura, 14, and her younger brother, 9-year-old Brenden Ventura, seem to already have learned this lesson, standing in front of Dillons East Friday morning.

"When people give us money, we get all excited because it means more toys for the kids that we help," Judith said. "It's a good feeling to help. It's worth it to see all their smiles."

The pair started bell ringing last year.

"The other time, we got like $100. This lady, she came and gave us a $100 bill and then she went somewhere and then came back and said, 'Oh, I found another one,' and then she gave us $100 again," Brenden said.

For those who can't give money, bell ringing offers a chance for them to give of their time.

"If you don't have the money yourself to give back, because it is a tight economy and sometimes you just can't do it, you know what? Stand two hours at a kettle, raise some money and see that you don't feel better about yourself," DeLeon said.

Another way that he is hoping to raise money this year is by selling buttons, "2012 Season Passes," in denominations of $20, $50 and $100.

"You can purchase one of those in one of those denominations, and then when you wear them when you're going in and out of the store, you don't have to make another contribution and people would know, 'Wow. That's one of our donors.' So we're training our bell ringers to recognize those buttons so that they can thank people that bought them ahead of time," he said.

Funds raised from the Red Kettle Campaign fund year-round Salvation Army activities, such as the Youth Activities Center, teen life skills, leadership training programs, youth summer day camps, after-school programs, the food pantry, emergency housing, clothing and utility assistance.

DeLeon said that it isn't just a handout, but a hand up.

"One of the things we really try to do is educate the folks that are coming in for services on how to be self sufficient, how to make ends meat. We teach budgeting classes. We work with them on a budget and so many other areas of their lives," he said. "Our job is more than just helping someone with their rent, helping someone with their electric, it's helping people have better lives. That's what our goal is. That's our mission, is to meet the needs of others without discrimination, in the name of Christ."

To volunteer as a bell ringer or to make a donation, call the Salvation Army at 276-4027.

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