They're a constant during the holiday season, the volunteer bell-ringers at the red kettles, but this year they are harder to find, and that is creating problems for the Salvation Army.
The Salvation Army of Bismarck/Mandan is more than $14,000 behind in its red kettle campaign this year, and the cold weather and lack of volunteers seem to be the problem.
It's hard to ignore that sound as you walk through the door of a mall or supermarket, and that's the point. Volunteer bell ringers are there not only to grab the attention of customers, but also to provide something critical to the holiday season, human connection.
"People don't give to causes, people give to people who have causes. And anytime someone comes to represent the Army, they may just be smiling and ringing the bell, but they represent the causes that we stand for," says Tim Sell, Salvation Army.
The Salvation Army launched its red kettle campaign three weeks ago and has raised a little more than $26,000 of its $110,000 goal. And with the frigid temperatures affecting the number people willing to volunteer and the number of people out shopping, the organization is hurting.
"The estimate is about 50 percent remain vacant during any given day," says Sell.
That means at least seven of the fifteen kettles in the Bismarck/Mandan area are unmanned, and therefore, less effective.
"I feel if there's somebody willing to stand there to put in their time at the end of the day, they should have something in their little pot to show for it," says donor Blaine Engelstead.
The volunteers at the kettles say it's not a hard task for the cause they are supporting, and they encourage others to donate some time.
"We spent a couple of hours here ringing our bells and handing out candy canes and it's worked very nicely," says volunteer Alma Heid.
Captain Sell says volunteering is not the only way to help the Salvation Army before Christmas, and they are also $2,000 behind in internet donations.
If you're interested in volunteering or donating directly, you can visit their website at www.salvationarmynorth/bismarck.
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