There is something about the sound of bells that denotes the holiday season.
Whether its church bells sounding during Christmas service — students singing “Jingle Bells” during their holiday concerts — or sleigh bells ringing as Santa delivers presents on Christmas Eve — the sound of bells is ever-present this time of year.
The sound of bells can also be heard at various local businesses as volunteers take time out of their busy schedules to collect donations to raise funds for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign.
The annual Red Kettle Campaign brings volunteer “bell ringers” from all walks of life to storefronts throughout Fremont to interact with customers and collect funds for Salvation Army’s various programs.
Some volunteers do so in association with a specific organization they belong to — like Gateway Realty owner Brad Martindale — who has been ringing the bell for several years through the Association of Realtors annual Salvation Army Ring Days program.
“Today is the Realtors’ day to ring the bell and we’ve done it for a number of years,” he said. “I get to see people that I do business with — so it’s a good way to reconnect.”
Martindale said he’s always surprised by people’s generosity during the holiday season.
“It’s interesting because people that appear to not have much themselves are probably the most generous,” he said.
Or students from Johnson Crossing Academic Center — who rang the bell this year as members of the JCAC Student Council for a community service project.
Sometimes, people just want to give back to the community — like Abby Griger and Kelsee Graham who spent an hour ringing bells in front of Hobby Lobby on Friday.
“We just want to give back during the holidays,” Graham said. “I know the money goes to a lot of good causes and really helps people that need it especially this time of year.”
Griger and Graham both enjoyed their time bell ringing — which was made easier by the appearance of the bright winter sun on Friday.
“We made sure to dress warmly and it’s not snowing or raining — so it could be much worse,” Griger said.
For others, like local resident Jim Keeler, ringing bells is about giving back to the Salvation Army specifically.
“I grew up in the Salvation Army and sometimes if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have had anything at all,” he told the Tribune in 2017. “We wouldn’t have had much of a Christmas if it wasn’t for them, so it’s just giving back.”
This year’s campaign was kicked off with a Kettle Kick Off Coffee event in Novemeber where Capt. Stephen Hansen announced that locally the Salvation Army hopes to raise $40,000 through the red kettles and a total of $185,700 through all of their Christmas campaign.
“I did the math and if everyone in the county threw $1.10 in the kettle we would meet our goal and exceed it,” he said at the Kick Off event in November.
Currently bell ringers can be found at Hy-Vee, Hobby Lobby, Baker’s , Wal-Mart, Walgreens and the post office.
The Salvation Army still has bell ringing slots available, and Hansen says that just having someone there at each site makes a big difference.
“We need to fill those up because when the kettles aren’t manned — they don’t make money,” he said.
Those interested in volunteering as bell ringers for the Salvation Army are encouraged to sign up for an hour-long time slot by calling the Salvation Army at 402-721-0930, or by visiting www.registertoring.com.
“None of us can raise all the funds without the help of each other,” Hansen said. “I love being out there and I think it brings a lot of joy to the community.”
While volunteering as a bell ringer is need and appreciated, Hansen says anyone who simply puts some change into the kettle is making a difference in the community.
“We used to have these signs that said “Put in Change, and Expect Change,” Hansen said. “What it basically meant was that no one could really raise the total by themselves, but every penny, dime or nickel helps us reach out goal so we can assist people in the community who need help.”