Ding, Dong Merrily We’ll Try: The Sievers Meet the Salvation Army
Some claim that every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings. If that’s the case, then the seraphim were fluttering fast and furiously when my wife Beth, my daughters Eleanor and Abigail, and I rang bells for the Salvation Army.
Rochester belongs to the Salvation Army’s Northern Division, which encompasses Minnesota and North Dakota. One of their kettles, when it is staffed with ringers for an hour, gathers enough donations to support a family with groceries for a month. Beside serving 447,000 hot meals annually, the Salvation Army also provides 129,000 nights of lodging, 137,000 items of clothing, and 127,000 Christmas toys every year.
It was simple to get online, register, and search for available kettles by location and date. The site, registertoring.com, included simple directions and gave the option of generating a text reminder to help you remember the day you are scheduled.
When we showed up for our hour-long shift at the Barlow Plaza Hy-Vee in our neighborhood, nine members of the Lucky Horseshoe 4H Club were just finishing. They’ve volunteered for about the last eight years because it’s a way their members, ranging in age from six to eighteen, can follow the club’s commitment to community service.
“Helping my community while spending time with my 4H friends is one of my favorite 4H activities,” says Mallory Bottemiller (11). “I look forward to it every year. It makes me feel good that we can help our community as a group and make a difference in people’s lives.”
During my family’s time at the bell, one contributing couple reminisced about the fond memories they had of ringing the bell with their children. Many of those who passed our jingling bells contributed, and those that didn’t were quick with a smile or even a word of thanks.
When my family decided to ring this year, I thought I was doing something good for my community. When I finished, I realized I was the one who had benefited. As each stranger and acquaintance made the selfless decision to contribute to someone else in need, my heart grew as I realized how giving and caring my community is.
The next time I hear the red kettle bells, I’ll imagine Bing Crosby crooning, “Silver bells, silver bells,” and be grateful that “it’s Christmas time in the city.”
Abigail Sievers, age 9
“From my point of view, it is a fun, family-friendly activity that you should try. I was so excited that I counted all the donations we received. 48 different people donated during our time. Some in change, but the rest in dollars, and I want to say thank you to those people for supporting charity. We had so much fun that we did our shift ten minutes longer than we needed to.”
Eleanor Sievers, age 11
“I had a lot of fun bell-ringing. It was one of those things you go into thinking ‘eh,’ but come out going ‘wow!’ Me and my sister both dressed up for it. (Me as a cupcake, and her as a doughnut). I had some doubts at first. I mean how fun can ringing a bell be? But in the process, I got to do something to help the community which was awesome. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone.”
“Our girls were excited to ring the Salvation Army bells, especially once we decided to dress up (I wore a unicorn horn, the girls wore their doughnut and cupcake costumes, and John wore a Santa Hat). One of the workers at Hy-Vee asked why were dressed up and we replied, ‘Why not?’ What a fun excuse to dress up and draw attention to yourself (and your kettle, by extension).
We got the chance to talk to all kinds of people including a cute little kiddo in unicorn boots, a little boy who showed us his Boy Scouts belt loops, as well as someone who shared that he must pay his ‘admission’ to the exit by donating his change. Interacting with people while collecting money for a good cause made for a fantastic family evening.”