Adults dropped dollars and young kids stood on their tiptoes to plink pennies into the Salvation Army red collection kettles across Garden City Friday, helping the nonprofit during its biggest fundraiser of the year.

This year, the familiar bells, kettles and aprons are set up at Walmart Supercenter, Walmart Neighborhood Market, Sam’s Club, Dillons East and West, Walgreens, Hobby Lobby and J.C. Penney from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Daylight Donuts from 5 to 11 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and a new location, the Dollar General on Campus Drive, at various hours on Friday and Saturday, said Garden City Salvation Army co-Capt. Jeff Curran.

The fundraiser, running from Nov. 16 to Dec. 24, has so far raised about $12,000 toward a $58,000 goal, Jeff Curran said, a few hundred dollars short of where the nonprofit was last year at this time. There are 21 “ringing days” left to meet the goal, he said.

"You know, with the population of Garden City or this area, if everybody gave $2 between now and Christmas Eve, we would make our goal and have plenty left over. That's not much. I could even afford $2," Jeff Curran said.

With a limited team of paid and volunteer bell ringers, sometimes not all stations are staffed at all scheduled hours. New this year, volunteers can register for bell-ringing time slots at www.registertoring.com, said Salvation Army co-Capt. Joyce Curran.

Bellringer Julie Stieben at Walmart Supercenter said she has fun with the job — it puts her face to face with people, and she loves people. It’s the kids who get the most excited, she said, dropping coins in one at a time and staring back at the kettle as parents usher them to the store or parking lot.

She and her boyfriend, manning the fort over at Dillons East, were taking up bells and kettles for their second year, Stieben said. With his long beard, kids often call him Santa Claus.

Across the street, the indoor entrance to Sam’s Club echoed with a chorus of bell clangs and enthusiastic Christmas carols from Garden City Community College faculty and staff members representing the math and science departments. They’d sung “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” too many times, said math instructor Nicole Dick, but they killed at “Feliz Navidad.”

“And we’ve only made one kid cry, only made one man run and one kid covered his ears,” said science instructor Shelli Lalicker.

Volunteer bell ringers so far represented the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs of Garden City, groups at Garden City Community College, Garden City High School, Horace Good Middle School and Florence Wilson Elementary School, First Christian Church and Real Men Real Leaders, among other organizations, Joyce Curran said.

The nonprofit is also paying 25 ringers about $7.75 an hour, Jeff Curran said. Among those ringers were several clients of Mosaic and Karis, which provide aid to residents with mental disabilities, he said.

Karis employee Randy Martinez stood alongside four clients rotating through shorter shifts Friday. The experience helped clients work in the public and build social skills, he said.

Martinez’s client Skyler Schwindt said he enjoyed the job. It was the first one he had ever had, Martinez said.

“That’s one of the things that this bell ringing stuff does, too. Some of these people that we hire probably aren’t going to work outside of this…” Jeff Curran said. “There’s a whole lot more that goes on behind the bell ringing than what people really see. Everybody wins. A dollar in the kettle, and everybody wins.”

The red kettles coincide with the Salvation Army’s Christmas campaign, which extends from October through January. Christmas Angel Trees are located at Walmart Supercenter, J.C. Penney, the Dollar General on Campus Drive and St. Catherine Hospital, Joyce Curran said.

Those wishing to donate to the local nonprofit directly can do so through the Garden City Salvation Army’s website, or by calling its office at (620) 276-4027.

 

Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.