Getting their bells rung
On a sunny Wednesday afternoon with temperatures in the 40s, three National Honor Society students stand near an entrance to the Wal-Mart in Blue Earth, donned in a red apron and a bell in one hand.
White letters spell out nine words and the mission of the Blue Earth Area High School students — “Need Knows No Season. I Am A Bell Ringer.”
Seniors Cody Klinksiek and Bjorn Olson, and junior Annika Johnson shake their hand bells in unison as a person puts change into the kettle.
“This is a good thing you’re doing,” a woman tells the trio.
It’s the start of the Salvation Army’s annual “Red Kettle Campaign.”
The organization’s goal is to raise $2,000. That would top last year’s $1,400 and $1,100 the year before.
Kettles also have been placed at the grocery stores in Blue Earth, Elmore and Winnebago, but the Wal-Mart location is the only one with “bell ringers.”
Dan Killion, treasurer of the Salvation Army, says his organization would like to recruit more people to ring bells.
For now, he’s hoping the NHS students will be able to pull a two-hour shift whenever they can.
“I think if we had volunteers for scheduled shifts we could raise more than $2,000,” says Killion. “If a person can do it for an hour, we’ll take it.” As part of their community service requirement, NHS students must volunteer 30 hours a year.
Olson uses his cell phone to line up a crew for the early morning of “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving and start of the holiday shopping season.
As president of the 19-member NHS chapter, Olson says if he expects to get any bell ringers, “I have to lead by example.”
Johnson doesn’t remember when she first started as a “bell ringer,” only that she was really young.
“She’s done it since she was a toddler. I started it as a family tradition,” says Annika’s mother, Gertrude.
Shoppers entering the store stop, chat and drop money into the kettle.
Again, another person thanks the students for volunteering.
Despite being a day off from school and the start of a holiday break, Klinksiek had a simple reason why he wanted to be a ‘bell ringer’ — he had the time and it’s for a good cause.
“I thought I might as well do something that’s worthwhile and helps people,” he says.
Seniors Garrett Passer and Kirsten Johanson, and junior Kate Hassing signed up for the “Black Friday” shift.
At 6 a.m., the temperature is in the mid-20s.
Wearing gloves, stocking caps and sweat shirts under their coats the students fill the air with the ringing of hand bells.
“Anytime we have the opportunity to help the community, we do,” says Passer, in trying to explain why the threesome woke up early to brave the freezing temps.
“Thanks for doing this,” says a person putting money into the kettle.
“This is a good thing you’re doing” says another.
Killion says money collected is used for ’emergency situations’ and gives people another alternative.
He recalls a domestic abuse victim staying at a motel because there was no room at a CADA facility. And, a man needing a place to stay when a fire damaged his home.
“Ninety percent of the money stays right here in our county and helps those who really need it,” Killion says.
This isn’t the first time NHS has chipped in to help out a local charitable organization.
On Halloween, trick-or-treaters collected $400 for Interfaith Caregivers.
“It’s part of the holiday spirit. It makes you feel good to help someone,” Johanson says.
Anyone wishing to make a donation or wanting to be a “bell ringer” may contact Killion at (507) 526-6200, ext. 2130.