In the world of journalism, a red light on the telephone usually means someone didn’t like something you wrote.
This morning I had a message from a caller, who didn’t leave her name, but said she was disappointed with my Everyday People story from Monday’s paper. I quickly went through my notes as I listened trying to find where I might have missed something. It happens — we make mistakes.
Then the caller dropped her bomb on me: the Salvaton Army bell-ringing volunteer I had interviewed actually gets paid. What? No way, I thought. Doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of the kettles if someone is being paid to stand there ringing the bells?
I asked around in my office and no one else had ever heard of paid bell-ringers either. So I called Capt. Scott Strissel at the Brainerd Salvation Army.
It’s true, the Salvation Army pays some of their bell-ringers. It’s not like it’s a dirty little secret. They need people to volunteer and if they don’t have volunteers, Capt. Strissel said the kettles see a serious deficit — we’re talking $2-3 dollars an hour for an unmanned kettle versus $50-60 an hour for a kettle with a bell-ringer.
“It just really helps to have someone there,” Strissel told me.
Strissel said the Brainerd Salvation Army pays five bell-ringers this year who are not otherwise employed. When jobs are created in our community with community dollars — even for the short term — everyone wins.
Strissel said the Salvation Army fills open locations first with volunteers, then if needed they call people, like Pat Kronschnable from Monday’s story, who don’t mind braving the cold for a few hours with a smile on her face to make a little bit of income and help a local organization serve their community. All money donated to the Salvation Army kettles in the Brainerd lakes area, stays in the Brainerd lakes area. Strissel said this isn’t the first year the Salvation Army has paid bell-ringers, but it is the most they’ve ever had to pay. “The need to make our kettle goal is great,” he said. Strissel said the Salvation Army is desperately looking for volunteers of all ages — seniors, young people, families, anyone who is willing is welcome.
So to the anonymous caller from this morning — thanks for enlightening us. I don’t think anyone would have ever guessed that the Salvation Army could be so desperate for volunteers that they would have to pay people to ring the bells.
If you want to volunteer sometime between now and Christmas Eve, give the Salvation Army in Brainerd a call at 829-1120. They are waiting for you and they are looking to fill volunteer spots at 12 kettle locations throughout the lakes area.
SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5879.