Bell ringers for The Salvation Army of Ellis County will stay toasty warm while they ring their bells for holiday donations from Walmart, Dillon’s and Hobby Lobby shoppers this winter.

The Hays Lions Club has seen to that, with four new wooden-frame huts, outfitted with portable electric heaters and a metal shop stool.

Warren Shaffer with the Hays Lions Club is ramrodding the project.

“It’s harder to get volunteers without the huts,” said Shaffer. “If you tell them there’s no heat and they’re going to be standing out in the cold, they won’t volunteer. This is an important time of the year for The Salvation Army, they have to raise $40,000. It’s their biggest fundraiser.”

Shaffer asked Dennis Budke, owner of Budke Home Improvement Inc., a Hays residential and commercial remodeling company, to build the houses. Budke started work right away Monday.

“He’s building these at the last second,” Shaffer said. “It was only a week ago The Salvation Army found out their buildings had deteriorated to the point they weren’t usable anymore.”

By Friday morning, Troy Haselhorst of Haselhorst Construction, Hays, and Timothy Walker, one of Budke’s employees, helped Budke put the finishing touches on two of the huts, with the remaining two nearly done. The final two will go to the big Dillon's, 1902 Vine Street, and Hobby Lobby, 3300 Vine.

Matt Kinderknecht, Heartland Building Center Inc., 2510 General Hays Road, loaded, delivered and unloaded two of the huts with a forklift and flatbed truck at Walmart on Friday morning.

“This looks really good,” said Shaffer, eyeing the delivery and set up at Walmart.

It was Julie Smith, coordinator for the Salvation Army of Ellis County, who made the plea a week ago to her donors for help.

“The Lions Club, we just sprung into action,” Shaffer said. Each hut, with labor and materials, is about $1,000 each.

“He gave me a picture of it and I went off of that,” Budke said. “We painted it red to give it the Christmas look.”

Taking action to help a good cause is par for the course for Shaffer, said Budke.

“Warren’s always done so much for this community,” Budke said. “Even though he’s always just the guy in the background.”

When bell ringing season is over, Shaffer said, the Lions will have a 40-foot shipping container in which to store the huts.

“So when they’re not in use over the holidays, we’ll put them in there and they’ll last for 25 years,” he said. “The Lions, we’re going to do it and do it right, and plan for the future. We’re so happy to do it and give The Salvation Army our support.”

Lions Club International, a worldwide service organization, is known for sending eye doctors to nations in need and supplying vision tests and eyeglasses. That’s been the case since 1925 when Helen Keller gave an inspiring speech at a convention of the organization’s members in Ohio, Shaffer said.

The Hays chapter collects glasses and helps people with vision costs, as well as provides help for many other causes, including the local Salvation Army.

New members, men and women, are invited to join by a member. As with many service groups now, it’s a challenge to recruit younger members, Shaffer said, particularly the young kids who prefer social media to in-person interaction.

“As Lions throughout the country we’re beginning to address this issue,” Shaffer said. “We’re going to modernize or die.”

The heroes Saturday are The Salvation Army and its volunteers, he said, because “they do so much good.”

As for the Lions, well, “many times a Lions member has something they believe in and pays for it out of their pocket, but says the Lions did it,” he said. “It’s very inspirational.”