HANCOCK COUNTY — Organizers of the local Salvation Army bell-ringer campaign fear they won’t reach their goal of $35,000 by Christmas Eve.
With only 25 percent of their goal, or about $8,700, collected since the campaign kicked off Nov. 14, organizers are pinning their hopes on a new bell-ringing location: ringers will be stationed outside Legacy Cinema Friday and Saturday for the opening of the latest Star Wars film, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”
They hope the anticipated foot traffic could result in increased donations, all of which go toward helping local people in need with rent, utilities, some transportation needs and some medical needs, said Jim Peters, director of Love in the Name of Christ of Hancock County and local coordinator of the campaign.
Peters said he believes warmer weather delayed some would-be donors from getting into the Christmas giving spirit, but the biggest detriment has been a shortage of volunteers to ring bells beside the kettles, which stay out at some locations even if ringers aren’t there to draw attention to them.
“It makes a lot of difference when you’re able to man the kettles,” Peters said, adding that the Hancock County Salvation Army collected more than $30,000 last year, an amount he’d like to top. “We can always use ringers. It’s a great family event. A lot of people bring their kids out and let the kids ring the bell.”
The organization needs about 25 volunteers a week, working two-hour shifts, to have someone ringing the bell by the familiar red kettles from about 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Peters said.
Two local banks drummed up support for the campaign early this month with a friendly competition. First Merchants Bank and Greenfield Banking Co. each had employees ring the bell for a two-hour stretch last week, raising more than $530 to go to needy Hancock County families.
Jeff Summers, vice president of business development at Greenfield Banking Co., said The Salvation Army contacted the banks with the idea, and employees stepped up to the friendly challenge.
The eight people from Greenfield Banking Co. who participated enjoyed the chance to support the community, he said, and he hopes staff members will make bell-ringing a holiday tradition.
Peters said he has learned throughout the years which businesses and organizations he can count on for help.
Staff members at Sam’s Club Distribution Center in Greenfield are among them. Nearly two dozen employees donate their time as bell-ringers from Black Friday to Christmas Eve, said Alfonzo Isom, operations manager.
The distribution center has provided volunteers for five years, and through a Wal-Mart program, also donates $2,000 toward the campaign, he said.
“We clock out and come down and ring the bell,” he said. “We don’t get compensation for it other than the joy of paying it forward.”
Through a news release on The Salvation Army Hancock County website, Peters pleaded for volunteers, saying manned kettles draw far more donations than those without the benefit of a cheerful jingle to draw donors.
Summers said it’s a shame to see the kettles without a volunteer.
“I walk into Walmart several times a week, and when you see the bucket, and no one’s there, people feel hesitant to put money into the bucket,” he said. “I encourage people to volunteer.”
The Salvation Army of Hancock County still needs bell-ringers to finish out its holiday campaign, which runs through Christmas Eve.
To register, visit registertoring.com or call organizer Jim Peters at 317-372-2304.