A Salvation Army bell-ringer who identified herself Sharon Works last week outside Winn-Dixie on Sylvester Road in Albany
The Salvation Army has begun its 2009 Red Kettle Campaign to ask the community for donations in the Albany area. The campaign is a traditional part of the Christmas season, and people know the Salvation Army is present by the familiar sound of a tinkling bell wherever they shop.
“Every new captain is required by the Salvation Army to ring the bell for 25 days in their first season,” said Captain Douglas McClure, pastor of the Salvation Army Church at 304 W. Second Ave., Albany. The church office serves nine counties.
Faye Turney, special projects manager in charge of the campaign, predicted a somewhat lower turnout for donations this year. When donations are lower, services for the needy suffer.
“They don’t have as much to give. Last year donations were down 9 percent. We expect to be lower this year,” she said.
The Albany office operates a thrift store. Clothing is free to low-income clients on an emergency basis every six months. Food boxes every 90 days, on request. The office is also responsible for the soup kitchen (7 a.m. every day, and 6 p.m. Mon.-Sat.) and a shelter for homeless men and women. The utility services emergency program pays renters utility bills, if not past due. And, a new housing program for those on the verge of homelessness, or those with existing eviction notices helps renters pay past-due rent, but renters must show income to pay the next months rent. Donations are the main source of funding for the clothing, food, shelter, and utility-payment programs.
Bell ringers work on the front line of the Salvation Army’s donation campaign. They work up to 40 hours each week as representatives of the Salvation Army, greeting the public. Not as easy a job as some new to the job believe. And like the mailman, neither shall rain, sleet, snow, or dark of night interrupt their appointed ringing — Sunday is the exception. They don’t ask for donations except by ringing that small brass bell that shoppers hear each season.
“This week we’ve hired 37 bell ringers and I only have 17 locations,” Turney said.
At the bell ringers’ orientation meeting, Turney said, “You’ll get at least a few hours. As it gets busier your time will increase, probably to 35-40 hours a week,” she said.
And often, those hours are spent in cold, sometimes wet weather.
The Salvation Army directly serves those in the community who rely on the kindness of strangers to survive hard economic times.
“We need volunteers. And donations,” McClure said.