November 30, 2009
Volunteers ring bells for needy
Annual Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign hopes to raise nearly $40k
By ANTHONY BORRELLI
CORTLANDVILLE — Andrew Kozer, dressed as “Jingles” the bear, managed to keep warm on a cold Saturday morning as shoppers dropped off spare change or dollar bills into his Salvation Army red kettle.
This year is Kozer’s first among the host of Salvation Army volunteers nationwide who stand outside or inside stores ringing their bells to solicit donations for the needy.
The white and fuzzy “Jingles” bear outfit is something the Salvation Army tries to use each year, the 19-year-old Cortland resident said Saturday as he stood outside Walmart in Cortlandville amid the cold and a slight drizzle.
Kozer said the Salvation Army has a bell ringer wear the bear suit at the Walmart location because it is the only one outdoors.
The suit attracts more attention, but the biggest benefit is the warmth, he said.
“It’s surprisingly a lot of fun being the guy in the suit,” Kozer said. “I’d rather be in this than just myself.”
Bell ringers stand beside a Salvation Army red kettle and ringing a bell while watching and waiting for passers-by to make donations.
Salvation Army Capt. Scott Dorchak said hundreds of people volunteer each year. He did not know how many have volunteered this year.
The money collected from the kettles is used to help needy families have food and toys for young children for the holidays, he said.
Kozer said bell ringers do not have any daily monetary quotas to meet. Dorchak said the Salvation Army strives to reach a goal each year of about $37,000.
“We usually strike within that, we’re off to a good start this year,” Dorchak said.
The Salvation Army has surpassed its holiday fundraising goal for the past two years. Last year $45,622 was raised and about $42,000 was collected in 2007.
Dorchak said they are on track to surpass the goal this year. The Salvation Army will have bell ringers working into Christmas Eve, Dorchak said.
Attracting volunteers for ringing the bell is not typically difficult, Dorchak said. Many of the same people offer their time each year and the Salvation Army works with various local organizations and schools interested in community service, he said. Among the organizations that pitch in are the American Legion and the Zonta Club, which is a ladies group.
Being a bell ringer and standing by the kettle for several hours takes some endurance, particularly while outside in the wintertime, Kozer said.
“But it’s really worth it,” he said.
Kozer admitted he was curious about what it was like to be a bell ringer, saying the experience so far was “interesting.” He began his Saturday shift at 9 a.m. and it moved slowly at first.
“At first it’s slow in the morning, but it begins to pick up as it goes on,” the Tompkins Cortland Community College student said.
Standing indoors near the entrance to Tops Friendly Markets on Route 13, bell ringers Helga DeMunn and Lura Wagner said they do not mind if some people are in too big a hurry to make a donation. When they can make one, it’s appreciated, the Zonta members said. Saturday was their first day as bell ringers.
“It’s just part of community service, someone has to do it,” Wagner said.
When asked what it was like to stand in one spot and ring the bell for several hours, Wagner gave little thought to the prospect of some mild discomfort.
“It’s just part of the game,” she said.
Kozer said he tries to stay busy when things get quieter. To pass the time, he experiments with different tempos and rhythms with the bell to see what attracts people. He said, oddly, the task is not as simple as it might look.
“You don’t know how to (best) ring the bell at first,” he said.
Usually keeping a steady ring works well, he said.
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