The bright red kettles and ringing bells have become ubiquitous during the holiday season. Salvation Army of Ellis County is gearing up for its final week of fundraising, and coordinators say more help is needed.
The organization still is short on volunteers to ring the bell at donation stations, which are open through Saturday. Hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Walmart, Dillons stores, Hobby Lobby, Walgreens and Big Creek Crossing in Hays.
“I find volunteering important because volunteering is not a salary wage. It’s truly a state of mind and state of heart,” said Ashley Allen, western Kansas field consultant with the Salvation Army. “And for those people who aren’t able to give back financially, they are able to come in and volunteer for a few hours to give back that way.”
Those interested in volunteering should call volunteer coordinator Stacy Schulte at (785) 259-0336.
This year’s holiday giving campaign has set a goal of $40,000. Approximately $22,000 was raised last year, a big drop from the $42,000 given in 2015. Approximately 87 percent of money raised stays in Ellis County to help families in need.
Because of the drop in fundraising last year, the local chapter was not able to help many families in need, Allen said, noting it is never easy to turn people away. Approximately 700 people received Salvation Army assistance in Ellis County last year, but another 1,700 requests were not able to be met, she said.
A total of approximately 40 donation kettles are located throughout Ellis County, including many smaller collection jars placed on the counters of area businesses. Allen estimates approximately $12,000 will need to be raised this week for the organization to achieve its goal.
Kyle Ermoian, one of two volunteer coordinators, said he has heard several reasons why locals choose to give or volunteer with Salvation Army. One volunteer decided to give back after receiving assistance in a time of need, and another cited the agency's quick and lasting response in the aftermath of the 2001 Hoisington tornado, he said.
Several local businesses, schools and service organizations signed up to help with bellringing, which has been shown to significantly boost fundraising success. Salvation Army estimates up to $38 per hour is received when a volunteer is present, compared to less than $2 per hour when a money kettle is unattended.
“In regards to bell-ringing, once you get out there and you do it, the time flies,” Ermoian said. “And you greet people on the way in and you see how there’s an energy that happens because that’s when a community pulls together. And it’s doing something good for the community.”
Other volunteers sign up as individuals, or even as families. Jamie Gross and her 8-year-old daughter, Taya, could be found ringing the Salvation Army bell outside Walmart on an unseasonably warm afternoon last week. While volunteers last week -- for the most part -- enjoyed fair weather, small huts are available to house volunteers during cold temperatures.
Gross said she has volunteered with the organization for many years with her company, and enjoys bringing her children along as a way to reinforce the importance of giving. On that particular day, the family ended up staying for a double shift because there weren’t enough volunteers scheduled for someone to take over two hours later.
“At a previous job I had, we would do stuff like this and the kids would always come help me,” she said. “We enjoy it. My kids know what it’s about.”