Ring-a-ling, hear them ring. Soon it will be Christmas day, and near the end of the Salvation Army's annual Red Kettle fund drive, meaning those traditional silver bells you hear upon entering a number of stores in Newton will be put away once more.
For many who take up the bells during the holiday season, it is a badge of honor to fill that role for the Salvation Army. Case worker Wendy Basye noted she has had around 20 volunteers total this year, many of them who have been helped by the Salvation Army themselves and want to pay it forward.
"We've had a lot of great volunteers, people who are really wanting to give from the heart and stand out there and bell ring," Basye said. "A lot of the volunteers have had their kids out there with them bell ringing and it really shows kids the difference that they can make. All of our volunteers really do make a difference in our community, anything that they're doing, including the bell ringing."
Volunteers work shifts of the length of their choosing between the hours of 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. during the fund drive, according to Basye, with kettles normally set up outside both Dillons stores and Wal-Mart in Newton. While today (Dec. 24) marks the final day bell ringers will be out, Basye noted the counter kettles placed throughout Harvey County will still be around for donations through Dec. 30.
Funds raised by the Salvation Army help the food bank and other social service programs, like assisting individuals with utility bills and rent, school supplies and Christmas distribution. Most of that money (around 88 percent) remains in the local community, too, something bill ringer Tish Green knows from first-hand experience.
Green's husband is on dialysis and the Salvation Army helped her family out when they were in need, so she was more than happy to help out when Basye was seeking volunteers for a worthy cause.
"With the Salvation Army, what happens in Harvey County usually stays in Harvey County, so when you're donating the 50 cents the $1 or the $5, it stays local," Green said, "so it would go to the neighbor kid down the street who you kind of worry about, but you've taken under your wing."
Elias Wynn is another volunteer who takes up a bell annually, doing so since he moved to Newton three years ago. Wynn also helps with food distribution at the Salvation Army from time to time.
As easy as bell ringing is, he encourages everyone to get involved in what he believes is a pretty good practice overall.
"It's helping people in need, giving them a little money," Wynn said. "I think everybody should contribute a part of our time to help out because people need it and many of them appreciate it, so it just gives me a good feeling."
Basye noted the Salvation Army is still seeking a little more money to meet its fundraising goal (which it was $9,600 short of as of Thursday), but having volunteers out on Dec. 24 will help and the funds will continue to be raised through Dec. 30 at the counter kettles located at Lone Star Fuel in Newton, Hilltop Convenient Store in Walton and the Casey's General Stores in Hesston and Newton.