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The sound of loose change clanking against the cold, red kettle is cheerful and comforting, echoing a promise of hope for the needy.
The crisp sound of bells ringing adds to the merriment, tugging at the heartstrings of passersby to toss in their spare change and possibly more.
The Salvation Army’s signature red kettles and the people who ring the bells unofficially mark the beginning of the holiday season, but according to Rosalind Strong-Porter, executive director of Green River Ministries, the bells might at times go quiet this year if enough volunteers don’t sign up to be bell ringers.
“We could use several volunteers, because the way that it’s set up, someone can ring the bell for as little as an hour or as long as they want to,” she said.
According to Strong-Porter, bell ringers are just as important to the Red Kettle Campaign as the actual kettle, but not many have signed up so far. She said people often believe that a kettle is closed when there is no bell ringer standing beside it, making them less likely to donate.
Phyllis Rhodes, chair of the Salvation Army Taylor County unit, said there was a good turnout of volunteers last year and she would like for that to continue.
“We definitely appreciate the help they give, the time they put into it,” Rhodes said. “The time they’re giving is an asset to the community.”
Rhodes said the Salvation Army works through Taylor County Crisis Relief to provide help to individuals and families who need shelter, clothing and food, and to those areas that have been devastated by a natural disaster such as a tornado or hurricane.
According to Rhodes, the money collected from this year’s Red Kettle Campaign will stay in the Taylor County community.
“I feel it is an important program to the community,” Rhodes said. “Some years ago, the fire was at the old hotel ... there were people living there and we were able to put them up for a short time until they could find homes.”
Rhodes said the local Salvation Army unit also partnered with Campbellsville Baptist Church to offer help when the 2009 ice storm forced many to go without electricity for several days.
Donations are also used to send local children to the Salvation Army’s summer camp at no cost to their parents.
Strong-Porter said that because people have the option of ringing the bells for one to several hours, it is difficult to predict exactly how many bell ringers they will need. In past years, students from the Kentucky Christian Academy as well as Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops have served as bell ringers and she hopes this will continue. She said the Campbellsville University football team and some professors are planning to participate this year.
Rhodes said the Red Kettle Campaign is so important because it is the only local fundraiser for the Salvation Army.
This year’s kettle locations will be Kroger in Green River Plaza and most likely at both entrances of Wal-Mart. As of press time, plans weren’t final.
Bell ringers are needed from Nov. 23 through Dec. 21.
Those interested in signing up should call Green River Ministries at 465-9880.
“The conditions may be cold, it may be rainy,” Strong-Porter said, “but you have the choice of standing out there for just an hour or a little longer, whereas other people don’t.”