A shortage of bell ringers

Many shifts at the Red Kettles are silent, and important match day campaigns are coming up
Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 4:42 PM CST
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OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - It’s a call to action that comes every holiday season. The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign is always looking for bell ringers.

And with several major match days approaching, the Salvation Army of Oshkosh is pleading with people to come and help.

The Salvation Army of Oshkosh has about 8 red kettles around the community with more in places like Omro and Winneconne, too. But these fund-raising kettles are only as good as the volunteers who help to staff them -- something the Salvation Army says it needs more of right now.

It’s one of the most recognizable sounds and volunteer opportunities of the season.

“The need is very great, pretty much every year. And it can be fun. You see a lot of people, people you know and don’t know, and kind of talk to them and it’s, it can be fun,” Mark Radley, a bell-ringing volunteer, said.

But the bells aren’t making as much noise as they used to.

“For some reason, our volunteer force is just not coming out right now,” Salvation Army Major James Mungai said. “We have a lot of locations that are empty.”

According to the Salvation Army of Oshkosh, ahead of its three biggest Red Kettle Match Days on Dec. 1, Dec. 6, and Dec. 15, it has less than 35% of its bell-ringing shifts assigned.

“If we can get all of our locations covered, during that match it’s so imperative because if we don’t come up with x amount of dollars then we actually lose out on those dollars because it’s a match,” Mungai said.

The lack of bell ringers isn’t just an issue in Oshkosh. It’s something the corps across the region and the country is experiencing.

As anyone with the Salvation Army will tell you, an unstaffed kettle is a costly one, especially for an organization that relies so heavily on donations to do its work.

“That money is used more than just Christmastime. That actually keeps our doors open, the lights on so that people can come into this facility all year round,” Mungai said.

And with a $215,000 Red Kettle campaign fundraising goal just in Oshkosh, the Salvation Army is hoping people will understand the importance of a bell-ringing shift.

“You are donating a big amount just by volunteering. Some people can’t put the dollars in, but they can give time in. So, time, talent and treasures, that’s what we’re asking,” said Mungai. ”The bell ringer has a part in helping the helpless and hopeless in our area. Just by donating their time, they’re helping us meet a need, and that’s the heartwarming thing.”

You can find opportunities to ring bells across Northeast Wisconsin at RegistertoRing.com.