The Bells of Christmas
Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign
by Joyce Long
For the past 122 Christmas seasons, bells rung by coat-clad folks have greeted shoppers outside of grocery and department stores. Begun by Joseph McAfee in San Francisco, the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle Campaign engages more than 25,000 workers and volunteers annually throughout the United States.
Center Grove resident Brenda Shaw-Garza volunteers as a Salvation Army bell ringer, stationed most often at Kroger. A few years ago, she, accompanied by her two sons, donned a Santa hat while her youngest wore reindeer antlers. When a young mother with a toddler approached, the youngster’s eyes lit up. “Look, Mommy! It’s Santa and his goat!”
A humbling moment occurred when Brenda worked downtown and was stationed in front of the former Indianapolis Star/News building across the street from Wheeler Mission. “I was ringing in the freezing cold when a homeless man put in what change he had, looked at me and said, ‘May God bless you, honey.’ I said, ‘May God bless you, too, sir!”
Recruiting Bell Ringers
New Hope Church has actively recruited volunteers for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign since 2005. Terri Anderson organizes volunteers to fill hour shifts for two days. Having served on the Salvation Army’s Advisory Board, Terri has witnessed both the collection of funds and their distribution. “It’s nice to see it go full circle. I don’t feel like I’m giving at all. It’s more like I’m receiving when I volunteer.”
Also from New Hope, Ron and Sue Tarplee have served as bell ringers. “We look forward to doing this each year. Often it’s the people you don’t think will give are the ones who do.” Sue enjoys giving children candy canes after they donate, appreciating their huge smiles.
Center Grove residents Norm and Phyllis Smith have also worked the annual Red Kettle Campaign organized by Rosedale United Methodist Church. While Norm remembers a donor once giving a hundred dollar bill, his fondest memories are of children emptying their pockets and teenagers searching wallets in order to give. “Young people want so badly to help. Rarely do you see them walk by.”
Collections Stay in Johnson County
Longtime volunteer Wayne Miller has seen many changes in the Salvation Army. His involvement began over 20 years ago with Greenwood Samaritan Services (GSS) once located in a house on Pearl Street. In 2001, the Salvation Army merged withGSS, continuing its food pantry. “Basically I ran the pantry while others did the bells,” said Wayne, who also helped install the hardware for the Red Kettle Campaign’s poles. “Money collected here stays in Johnson County. Over $90,000 was collected.” Located at 325 Market Plaza, the Salvation Army’s food pantry is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 12:30-4 pm. Wayne is impressed with the number of pantry volunteers who serve faithfully, including Kris Kyle, Sharron Kurz and Christina Kipper.
Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign is the longest fundraiser of its kind, in 2010 serving 30 million people. This year’s goal is $90,000. To volunteer, call 317-881-2505 or register online at RegisterToRing.com.
Joyce Long, Greenwood Middle School language arts teacher from 1992-2000, has called Center Grove home for the past 25 years. Currently Joyce works as the communications coordinator for Center for Global Impact and is passionate about engaging people to empower the poor.