Salvation Army effort seeking bell-ringers

Published 7:00 pm Sunday, November 14, 2010

It’s hard work.

The hours can stretch on. Temperatures can be icy in the morningand suffocating at lunch. Cold winds chap cheeks, bright sunpenetrates the eyes and the arm wears out at the elbow. All of thiswhile thousands of people constantly come and go.

The job of a Salvation Army bell-ringer can be painful, but itcomes with its own medicine – satisfaction.

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“I’ll be 84 in January, and my legs hurt sometimes when I’mstanding there. But they hurt at home anyway, and at least I’mhelping people while I’m standing out there,” said Wesley Kent, theSalvation Army coordinator for Lincoln County.

For needy families in Lincoln County and its neighboring counties,the Salvation Army’s annual Christmas bell-ringing fundraiser cansoothe pains far greater than tired legs. Families that experiencefires, need help with bills and other emergencies all benefit fromthe organization’s mission of love, and that mission is paid forlargely by the donations crammed into kettles manned by volunteerbell-ringers at the Brookhaven Wal-Mart.

This year, the ringing starts at 8 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 26 – theday after Thanksgiving. Kent said around 80 volunteers are alreadyon the list to pitch in, but more are welcome, whether they beSanta Claus impersonators, Boy Scout groups or just regular, goodpeople wanting to make a difference.

“The more we can get, the easier it is on all the ones who areringing,” he said. “We try to work in two-hour shifts, and it takesabout 10 people every day – five at each door. I have people ashigh as 90 years old ringing for me this year, and we also have BoyScouts and Girl Scouts ringing for us.”

Anyone interested in volunteering for the drive can call Kent at601-833-1088.

The area Salvation Army’s mark to hit for 2010 is $80,000, andBrookhaven’s target is $30,000. The goals are similar to lastyear’s, when Brookhaven and the rest of the five-county area felljust shy of hitting the mark, with the city raising about $29,900and the area chapter bringing in about $66,800.

“We think to set a worthy goal and not get up to it is better thansetting a lesser goal and achieving it,” Kent said. “The economy isprobably worse off this year, but the need is greater because ofthat. We should work harder than ever to try to get thisgoal.”

To meet the lofty marks, Loretta Grady, the kettle coordinator forAmite, Lawrence, Lincoln, Pike and Walthall counties, is calling onthe youth.

“That’s one of our main focuses this year,” she said.

To help bring in young volunteers, groups who sign up to swing thebells this year will be allowed to set up tables and distributeinformation about their organization, and those who put in eighthours will be given credit for community service hours for thebenefit of job and school applications. Dance classes, martial artsstudios and Scout groups are welcome to sign up, Grady said.

Hitting the goal is critical for the Salvation Army to take care oflocal needs.

With 86 percent of the money raised spent in the local area,falling short of the goal means falling short on helping families.Since the goal was missed last year, the local chapter’s fundsrecently ran dry, Grady said.

And the people of Brookhaven are a very, very important part of theprocess.

“Brookhaven only has one location, and it really makes the money,”Grady said. “We have four locations, and Brookhaven brings inalmost half of what we get. Brookhaven always pulls through.”