It was a news story with legs. A holiday tale of a big box retailer that said no to the cheerful bell ringers of the Salvation Army. The media jumped all over it last week.
As the story first came to light, Mills Fleet Farm decided to make a direct donation to Salvation Army chapters rather than allow the organization’s volunteers to ring bells and collect money in their red kettles this holiday season. A second story surfaced later that same day in which Mills officials reversed their ban, realizing the public relations problems that it posed.
The story, at least in a short snippet, was heard on national radio news broadcasts and could be found on many websites including those of the Chicago Tribune and Washington Post, The casual listener or reader might jump to the conclusion that Mills Fleet Farm was the Grinch in this story. That would be a faulty conclusion.
As the hometown newspaper which has grown with the Brainerd-based Mills corporation over the years we can attest to the generosity of the Mills family and their businesses. The public probably hears of a mere fraction of the generous contributions of the Mills companies. They often insist that their contributions not be publicized. The Mills family and companies have stepped up time and time again when people or worthwhile organizations in this area have needed a hand.
Even in last week’s Salvation Army story Mills Fleet Farm was making direct donations to Salvation Army chapters and were hoping the Salvation Army could deploy its bell ringers at other locations. The company’s candor and its receptiveness to the voices of its customers on this issue are commendable. Company officials said they made the wrong decision and apologized.
Now the Salvation Army can use the Mills direct donations and the money they will collect at Mills stores. Let those bells ring!