These volunteers ring a bell
The sound of bells has been heard across the area for the past month as the Duluth Salvation Army began the annual Red Kettle campaign. Volunteers have devoted hundreds of hours to ringing bells and wishing passersby a "Merry Christmas." Volunteers are the difference between an empty kettle and one that raises about $50 per hour, enough to provide a family with two bags of groceries. There are still many two-hour shifts available until Christmas Day in the 18 kettle locations around the Duluth area.
The Budgeteer caught up with some of the bell ringers on the bitterly cold morning of Dec. 13 to find out why so many donate their time.
For Tom Szukis, it's a way to "get out of the house."
"I just retired this June, so I thought it's time for me to get out and do some volunteer work. And it's fun too," Szukis said as he rang his bell just inside the Cub Foods entrance.
For Holly Winklesky and her father, Jim Winklesky, ringing has become an annual tradition. Together they stood bundled up in the exit of the Duluth Miller Hill Super One.
"Every year, I drive up from the metro and we get together to ring bells. It's our way of giving back to the community," Holly said. "I'm from Duluth so I like to do it in my hometown instead of in the metro area."
Jim has volunteered with the Salvation Army for the past several years. Holly said he's picked up shifts when others haven't shown up and he tries to put in as much time as possible.
"Oh I just do what I can. I don't put nearly enough time in, I wish I could do more," Jim said. "There are so many people that I run into while ringing the bells that tell me they get help from the Salvation Army. I love it. That's why I do it."
Holly likes to keep track of the money they raise each year as they ring together.
"It's fun to try and beat it. I don't think we're going to do better today though, it's pretty cold out and people aren't as active," Holly said.
Across town in another Super One, in the Kenwood Plaza, Mary Hershey made the same observation as she rang with her husband, Rick.
"It's the weather. Last week we had more people during our shifts. But it'll get better," Mary said.
This is the Hersheys second year ringing, but their fifth or sixth shift this season, due to low ringer numbers. The couple don't volunteer with a larger organization, rather as individuals who "want to do some good."
"We like to help wherever we can. It just makes you feel good," she said.
Penny Dieryck also enjoys the feeling of helping people in need. While stationed just outside the doors of Hobby Lobby, she recalled how she started ringing bells as a Sunday School teacher.
"I would set up a day where the kids would each take an hour and I'd spend a day with them ringing bells. Then I just kept going with it when my children grew up and I was done teaching," Dieryck said.
Dieryck's favorite part of bell ringing is both "giving back to those in need" and "visiting with people as they walk past" her. Sometimes she's able to help in more than one way. Last week she was stationed outside the JCPenney entrance of the Miller Hill Mall. She watched a couple having car problems, noticed they had to have their car towed away and began to talk with them.
"They didn't know how they were going to get home, so I said, 'OK, I'll give you a ride.' So again, stepping up and giving back. That's what it's all about."
Over the years, Dieryck has been stationed in several locations, from Sam's Club to Menards to Walmart. Which location was the most generous?
"It seemed like Sam's Club was one of the most generous locations. That might be because we were stationed outside the doors, though," Dieryck said.
Although other locations have been reported as overly generous as well. According to Pastor David Norland, his station in the Miller Hill Mall Entrance 2, next to Noodles & Company, last Thursday, the bucket was so full of donations, the final person had a hard time carrying it to the gift wrapping station to turn it in.
"We have such a generous community who are willing to support those in need," Norland said.
Norland has been ringing bells in Duluth for about five years. He volunteers through the Skyline Rotary Club. His favorite part of ringing?
"It's an opportunity to share joy in the midst of the world's sorrows," Norland said.
Registering to ring is simple. Check available shifts and sign up online at SalvationArmyNorth.org/Duluth. You may also call (218) 722-7934 ext. 114 to register your group or as an individual with Jill.
"They're truly in need of more ringers and Christmas is still a week away, so if you have a couple of hours that you can give to the community, do it," Dieryck said.