As holiday shoppers are stopping by local retailers to do some Christmas shopping, the Salvation Army of Fremont is ringing its bells outside to give back.
“Some of us are really tight this time of year, buying gifts and all the food for Christmas,” Salvation Army Capt. Stephen Hansen said. “But any of us can take a couple hours and stand out there.”
Since early October, volunteers with the Salvation Army have been stationed outside of Walmart, Hy-Vee, Hobby Lobby, Baker’s and the Fremont Post Office. Until Christmas Eve, the bell-ringers will be collecting money to fund its programs.
Hansen said a new method will be available nationwide to donate digitally at these locations: “Kettle Pay.”
People wanting to donate with a cellphone with Apple Pay or Google Pay can scan a QR code or hold their phone close to a smart chip located on a sign to pay a selected amount.
“I don’t carry cash, and I feel guilty even though I work for the Salvation Army since I walk past those kettles every day,” Hansen said. “So it’s just a nice way to be able to make a donation without carrying cash.”
Hansen said the money will be distributed to the region based on the billing zip code of the payment. For example, if a donor is from Fremont, he said the money will go toward the Salvation Army of Fremont.
The Salvation Army is still looking for volunteers for its Fremont operations, Hansen said. Interested people can sign up for times ranging from one hour to hours over multiple days at registertoring.com.
The bell-ringing goal for this year is $40,000, Hansen said, and the entire Christmas effort provides about half of the Salvation’s income for the year.
“The more people we can get out there ringing, the more we can cover those sites and be able to pay for the services we do year-round, like the food pantry and buying the food and toys for the giveaway at the end of this month,” he said. “All those things we do 365 days a year are really dependent on all the Christmas fundraising we do.”
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Hansen said he always enjoys getting to take part in the bell-ringing each holiday season.
“I’m going to be out there a couple hours today for my Rotary Club and a few hours here and there when I have time to fill in,” he said. “It is a lot of fun, and it’s really fun to interact with the people as they’re doing their shopping this time of year.”
The Salvation Army also has more than 300 families signed up for its Joy Shoppe, which distributes food and toys to those in need.
Hansen said the Salvation Army is expecting many churches this Sunday to bring in toys collected from drives. He also said it has received meat from WholeStone Foods for many years as well.
“We purchase the food here locally and make sure that that money stays and helps the Fremont area,” Hansen said.
The shoppe is always looking for volunteers, especially bilingual ones, Hansen said.
“As our community changes, we’re seeing more and more Hispanic people that don’t necessarily speak English or understand English well,” he said. “So we’re always looking for people to help take our clients through that and help them pick out the toys for their children.”
Hansen said it’s important to volunteer this time of year, which helps remind people how dependent others are of programs that the Salvation Army provides.
“It’s not always easy to ask for help, and it always brings joy to me to help carry stuff to people’s cars and to take them through the Joy Shop and help them find those things,” he said. “And many times, they’re surprised by how much they get and how well our community helps those who are less fortunate.”