Salvation Army volunteers and staff gathered in November for the kickoff of the 2018 Red Kettle campaign. ERIC HIGGENBOTHAM/STAFF

COMMENTARY: Salvation Army volunteer options include bell ringing, more

Those Salvation Army Red Kettles at local stores bring so many memories to us during the Christmas season. It just doesn’t seem like Christmas shopping is complete without the cheerful ringing of those bells and exchanging Merry Christmas wishes with the bell ringer.

But those bells do not ring themselves.

Years ago it was easy to find bell ringers, but as our culture and shopping methods have changed, the number of volunteers has diminished. Perhaps the shortage is caused by our overscheduled calendars or our shyness to ask strangers for a donation. Maybe all we need is to be reminded of the joys of helping others.

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New Carlisle resident Candy Woehle-Bender took time this week to recall her years volunteering with the Salvation Army. Bender still finds time to assist the organization, even though the Christmas season is keeping her busy at her New Carlisle beauty salon, Shear Madness.

As she explained, Bender always enjoyed her time with the red kettles and bells.

“I’m a local girl and I like ringing those bells all over,” Bender said. “I know people and they just cannot walk by me. I’m very impossible to ignore.”

I had to admit to her that I’ve always wondered about the proper thing to do if a person has already donated, or has no cash. I hate to walk quickly by and try to not make eye contact. I don’t want to be rude to the bell ringer.

“We know that some people just don’t carry money anymore,” said Bender. Ringers are also aware that some people donate by writing a check and mailing it in.

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As she explained, ringers are members of the community just like us and know we are sometimes in a rush or have other things on our mind.

At times like that, a friendly smile, a Merry Christmas, a thank you for volunteering, or just a wave goes a long way.

Years ago when my girls were young, I’d give them quarters to donate into the kettle. I hoped my little ones would carry on the donating tradition. I think this is how I got started. My dear departed Mother’s side of the family always strongly supported the Salvation Army. Mom never forgot how her brother was helped by the Salvation Army returning home on a troop train after World War II.

This year Bender was not a bell ringer, but she is still an enthusiastic volunteer. Last week she helped with distribution of bicycle donations. This week she is working at one of Santa’s secret warehouses to help prepare toy donations for distribution.

She told me that she would recommend volunteering during the holiday season to any person who would like to be filled with the Christmas holiday spirit and who wants to make a difference in this crazy world.

Bender has personally known people who were helped by the Salvation Army when things weren’t going so well for them. That is one of the reasons she is enthusiastic about supporting the organization.

“The Salvation Army turns no one away. They really don’t.”

She said that people shouldn’t be shy about asking for help since many of us need a bit of assistance at one time or another in our lives. And, as she suggested, later on they might be able to help others traveling over those rough roads in life.

The Salvation Army is a great place to volunteer,” said Bender. “Call 937-322-3434 and tell them you want to help.”

There is still time this season to ring those bells and share the joy.

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