Volunteers needed for bell ringing program

After making a donation herself, Mikala Zwetzig picked up the bells as the regular bell scheduled bell ringer made a quick trip inside Walmart in December 2018.

Volunteers in red aprons with familiar red kettles are readying to ring in the Christmas season as the Salvation Army Bell Ringer program gets ready for another season.

Carmen Trevino, family stabilization manager with Community Partnership of Western Nebraska (CAPWN), is again organizing the bell ringer program, a community staple for the past 20 years.

Starting the Friday after Thanksgiving, bell ringers will be out in the community on Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 21. Volunteers will be ringing Friday evenings from 4-7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Locations include Main Street Market, Walmart, Safeway and the Monument Mall in Scottsbluff and Fresh Foods in Gering.

Bell ringing volunteers come from across the community. They come as individuals, families, church youth groups, 4-H clubs, members of professional associations and more.

“Some of the church youth groups like to ring on Wednesday evenings, so we will accommodate time for them,” Trevino said. “If anyone wants to ring at a time other than the weekends, we’ll accommodate that as well.

“We’re always in need of volunteers,” she said. “The more we have, the more we can collect to help people with a lot of different emergency needs.”

Those needs can never be planned for, but can take the shape of help with rent and utilities, prescription assistance, gasoline for transportation to medical appointments and other needs.

“CAPWN is grant funded and doesn’t always have funds available to help people,” Trevino said. “The money from the bell ringing program really helps us to fill the needs and the gaps we couldn’t fill otherwise.”

Assistance can even take the form of purchasing a new motor for a wheelchair bound client. Another client on a fixed income needed a new pump for her water well.

During the year, CAPWN is able to offer assistance to 150-200 families through the Salvation Army Bell Ringer program.

“We only ask that volunteers are willing to ring for one hour,” Trevino said. “It’s a worthwhile gift of people’s time and there’s always a reward in that.”

Trevino said she’s always amazed by the program. Church groups will sing Christmas carols while they’re ringing the bells. And everyone always seems to have a few extra dollars, or even change, to help people in need.

“For some people who give, it’s not just monetary,” she said. “Sometimes they’ll bring coffee or hot chocolate for the ringers, especially on really cold days. It’s a camaraderie that makes a huge difference for people in our community.”

Ninety percent of the funds from the Salvation Army Bell Ringer program, about $20,000 each year, stay in the local area.

CAPWN is also able to help the Scottsbluff and Gering Police Departments, which offer emergency assistance for transients who come through the area and become stranded for any variety of reasons.

To volunteer, people can call Trevino at 308-633-3236 or Christina Rodriguez at 308-633-3209 to sign up. People can also sign up during a meeting on Monday, Nov. 4 at 5:30 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Scottsbluff.

“I think that if volunteers will ring the bells just once, they’ll want to keep doing it,” Trevino said. “It’s that rewarding. In that hour, volunteers are helping someone that’s less fortunate.”

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Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at jpurvis@starherald.com.

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