Salvation Army seeks volunteer bellringers

by W. Winston Skinner


Bette Hickman, who chairs the local Salvation Army advisory board, rings a bell next to a red kettle at Walmart. Working with her is board member Sam Levie. 

‘Tis the season — for giving and helping others.

Local ministries are busy preparing for Christmas by offering help in various ways and seeking funds to continue work. One Roof Ecumenical Outreach will be giving away gently used toys on Tuesday starting at 10 a.m.

Each December, One Roof staff and volunteers select gently used toys from the ministry’s resale store. Toys are placed on tables in the side parking lot of the One Roof building at 320-C Temple Ave., west of downtown Newnan.

Toys will be available as long as they last.

“They’re gently used. There are some nice things. We’re just trying to share,” said Derenda Rowe, executive director of One Roof.

“We’re trying for the 17th,” Rowe said. She said the giveaway will be delayed a day in the event of rain.

People other than parents who know a child who needs a toy are welcome. “Anyone can come — aunts, uncles, grandparents,” Rowe said.

Several local organizations are helping families with toys for Christmas, but Rowe said there always seems to be a need for toys as Christmas draws near. “Many of our clients missed the signup for Toys for Tots, Angel Tree and Christmas in Coweta,” she said.

“We’ve been telling them about this … so they do have an opportunity to give a toy to a child,” she said of the upcoming toy giveaway.

One of the most visible connections between charities and Christmas is the presence of bellringers at stores across the county. The Salvation Army red kettles — and volunteers ringing bells and offering Christmas greetings — have become an iconic image of the season.

“We are in desperate need of bellringers,” said Stephanie May, executive director of the Salvation Army’s Newnan Service Center.

The red kettle campaign provides funds that are used to help local families, and the Christmas project is a major part of funding for the Army’s outreach in Coweta County. Volunteers began ringing bells in November, and the project continues through Christmas Eve.

Some paid bellringers are used, but the preference is for volunteers. “We started off strong,” May said, but she said participation by volunteers has been “slowly declining.”

Individuals, families and organizations — churches and clubs — have been volunteered to ring the bell since Nov. 17. An appeal for more volunteers was made at Thursday’s meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Coweta at Newnan Country Club and at an earlier Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce gathering at Central Educational Center.

Volunteers are asked to commit to at least two hours. Background checks are done on adults who volunteer, and children and teens must be supervised by an adult. Anyone who could “give us a couple of hours, we would greatly appreciate it,” May said.

As of last week, the kettles have brought in $20,000. While May termed that level “amazing,” she noted the local goal this year is $50,000. She sent an email to advisory board members urging them to get “your churches, groups, friends, neighbors involved.”

The local Salvation Army advisory board held its annual ceremonial bellringing kickoff on Dec. 7. Board members rang bells at Walmart and at Kroger on Lower Fayetteville Road. At the Lower Fayetteville location, Larry Repass, a retired Salvation Army officer, played his trumpet.

The local service center also held a toy collection drive for its Angel Tree program at Walmart that day. Anyone interested in volunteering to ring the bell should call 770-251-8181.

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