The bell ringers

First Posted: 1/5/2015

The bell is a simple device that makes sound.

For more than 4,000 years, bells have been used to herald news. The striking implement can be a tongue, known as a clapper, suspended within a metal circle. The clapper acts like a small hammer as it strikes the inside of the bell.

The famous Liberty Bell is an iconic symbol of American independence. Historically in Scranton when a mine disaster occurred, bells from all churches would feverishly ring, summoning all to the mine entrance. The bell which marks the hour tolls from the bell tower at the Waverly Community House and people are called to worship as the bell is rung before mass at Our Lady of Snows Church.

Each year at the end of November and all through the month of December, a very small bell is rung in Chinchilla in front of the liquor store. Members of the Rotary Club of the Abingtons take two-hour shifts, shaking the bell which belongs to The Salvation Army. The tingle of the bell announces the red kettle is open and ready to receive funds for The Salvation Army.

Rotarian Norbert Mahr arrived at a Rotary meeting in early November with a schedule for volunteers to sign up for 64 slots of two-hour shifts. On sign-up day, I looked at that list. I chose a Saturday afternoon on one weekend and a Sunday on the following weekend. As I signed my name. I wondered what the weather would be like on those two days so far away.

Would it be windy, cold, wet, snowy?

Maybe I would get lucky and collect on a nice warm day. I chose two shifts, knowing I would be relieved at the end of the first hour on both days by my son, Rotarian Drew Christian.

I was called the day before my shift by Rotarian Theresa Collins, whose job it was to give a reminder to each assigned person. That way no slot is ever forgotten and unattended. On my designated day, I donned two pairs of socks, tights with snow pants on top of them, a turtle necked shirt, two sweaters and a snow coat equipped with a tight-fitting hood.

I was relief for my Rotarian friend, Gene Little, a man in his late 80s who never misses a Rotarian sign-up sheet. He took off the Rotary apron and tied it on me. (I had so many clothes on, I needed help to get one more thing over my head.) He handed the small bell to me and wished me well. I began to ring the bell and immediately people came by, dropping change, many $1 bills and even $5s, $10s and $20s in the slot in the kettle.

Some parents with small children held back, obviously talking about the kettle fund. The family would approach the kettle and the small child would be encouraged to give up the hand held coins.

All walks of life donated, those who appeared well off and those who did not appear to have extra money to give away. After all, who has left-over money on the weeks before Christmas? Still they came, they smiled, they dropped their hard-earned money into the kettle for the good of others. It began to fill and soon dollars needed to be pushed down into the slot.

Rotarian Diane Calabro, co-chair with Rotarian Gail Ciccerini, showed up with an enormous bag. Diane and I unlocked the kettle door and emptied the money into her bag. She took it to the Fidelity Bank to Rotarian Tripp Crowley, where the money was added to previous dropoffs and vaulted.

The Red Kettle Campaign began in San Francisco in 1891 and has been The Salvation Army’s main fundraiser. In our club, we have been collecting for about 40 years. In past times, we were allowed to stop cars on the corner of Winola Road and State Streets. We were also collectors at the McDonald’s roadway, standing in between cars, coming and going. We are safer – and quite visible – in front of the liquor store.

What happens to the money we collect in December? The Salvation Army serves anyone in need without discrimination. Our collected money is used for people’s needs in our area. Whether it is a hot meal, a shelter, a bag of groceries or a national disaster, The Salvation Army operation center is ready to serve suffering humanity through intentional outreach and innovative programs.

The national collection has given food, toys and clothing to over six million people during the Christmas season and helped more than 34 million Americans recovering from all kinds of personal disasters nationwide. While other charitable organizations have CEOs with large salaries, (some up to a half million dollars), the head of The Salvation Army receives a salary of $13,000 and a modest house to live in.

As the bell rang persistently and insistently all through December, our local people opened their wallets and their hearts and gave $6,904.67. Rotary’s own Charitable Trust will also make a substantial contribution to this end. As I stood on a shabby small rug outside of the store and persistently rang the little bell, my feet were numb, my back was sore, my fingertips were cold but I was filled with joy.

What a privilege it is to be a Rotarian and a Salvation Army bell ringer!

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