A bell ringer’s observations [UPDATED]Published 10:00am Monday, November 26, 2012 Updated 12:07pm Monday, November 26, 2012
For the second straight year, the Fergus Falls Sertoma Club joined other service clubs in Fergus Falls and rang the bell at the red kettle. Along with other Sertoma members throughout the day, I took a 90-minute shift on Tuesday afternoon at the entryway of Service Food.
As I did last year, it’s hard not to feel like just standing there for an hour and a half doing nothing but smiling, saying hi and ringing the bell would get boring.
However, as a person who spends most of my days and nights running around like a mad chicken trying to get everything done at work and home, getting 90 minutes to simply stop and smell the roses (or in this case the Service Food chicken) was, in many ways, good therapy.
Besides, you can’t underestimate how fascinating it is to watch and talk to random people as they walk by.
Here are a few things I noticed:
• Lots of people shop for groceries the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. From 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, the entryway featured a constant flow of customers.
Like the Black Friday sales moving up to Thursday evening, clearly, there are plenty of people who, understanding that the grocery stores would surely be crowded on Wednesday, went at least one day early.
• Most people give to the Salvation Army. While the amounts varied from loose change to a $20 bill, many were more than willing to give something.
In terms of charitable organizations, you can hardly go wrong giving to the Salvation Army.
Between their lunch program, afterschool programs for children and many other programs, it’s well known that donations will be used to help those less fortunate.
• I noticed that senior citizens were particularly generous. There were many elderly folks who, frankly, I worried about whether they were strong enough to handle a trip to the grocery store, made it a point to get out their wallets and give something. Clearly, senior citizens understand the history of the Salvation Army in helping those in need.
One guy stuffed cash into the kettle and said, “I’m a World War II veteran, you know.” I’m sure he has stories he can tell.
• Clearly, having someone stand at the kettle, ring the bell and say hello to those passing by generates more dollars than an unmanned kettle.
By the time I left in mid-afternoon, the kettle was plenty full. Clearly, people appreciated the fact that someone had taken the time to volunteer to ring the bell, and gave because of it.
• I had a couple people say, “I heard they’re paying you to do this” and felt that it was wrong if I were. Because of the increased giving that comes when a bellringer is present, I certainly understand the decision by the Salvation Army to pay people to ring the bell.
I also understand those that may sign up for the job. A job is a job, after all, and bellringers are providing a valuable service to the Salvation Army.
They shouldn’t feel guilty about getting paid. I’d rather see them get paid by the Salvation Army — who will use the funds they raise for a variety of good causes — than, say, stand on a street corner with a cardboard sign.
• I told those who asked, however, that I was indeed not getting paid. In fact, the guilt my mother gave me struck, and I couldn’t help but slip some of my own cash into the kettle myself.
Clearly, the Salvation Army needs volunteers to ring the bell. I assure you, the time goes by fast, it’s anything but boring, and it’s incredibly important to those in need.
To inquire about bellringing opportunities, contact the Salvation Army at 739-9692.
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In my column last week about expanding lunch opportunities on the east side of Fergus Falls, I forgot to mention (and I knew I’d forget somebody) the American Legion, which has lunch available, including those lip-smacking ribs.
To the manager of the Legion, I owe you a lunch break.
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s publisher. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org