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Holiday and giving moods naturally blend

Levi Nelson (left) and Sam Hines of the Helpful Workers 4-H Club ring bells for Salvation Army donations last year at Family Fresh Market in downtown River Falls. This year's appeal to volunteers includes one aimed at parents and their children to try out bell ring together as a family activity. (Submitted photo)

Less than a week before Thanksgiving Day, Salvation Army volunteers will be at three storefronts in River Falls, ringing bells to tempt people into dropping spare change, cash and checks in their red kettles.

For the second straight year, the Pierce County Salvation Army's annual Christmas fundraiser will start a few days early — this year, Saturday, Nov. 19.

“That's when deer hunting starts and there are deer-hunting widows wanting to get out to shop for the holidays,” said Deanna Hines, River Falls coordinator for the PCSA. “There are craft sales going on, people are preparing for Thanksgiving, starting to think of Christmas coming up, and they're feeling thankful — so it's a good time for us to be out there collecting.”

Hines said there's always a need for more bell ringers.

“We definitely need more of them,” she said. “Those red kettles don't bring in very much money by themselves. It really comes down to the bell ringers being there making some noise.”

“And you don't have to ring alone — do it with a group, your family, your business. Make it festive when you're together — ring the bells, sing some Christmas carols. Bell ringers who are cheery bring in more money.”

Hines said 86% of PCSA proceeds stay to help needy clients in Pierce County — the territory includes all of River Falls, even the part that's in St. Croix County.

PCSA money is channeled to people needing help to pay for emergency medical bills, gas vouchers, auto repairs, lodging, rent and utilities. Referrals come from Our Neighbors Place (local homeless shelter), River Falls-based Assistance & Resource Center (ARC) and area churches.

Hines has been with PCSA for three years.

“I enjoy doing things for the community,” she said. “The Salvation Army is a great thing, a great cause. If you can't afford to give a donation, we can always use you as a volunteer. That's a way to give, too.”

In River Falls, bell-ringing volunteers will be stationed at three locations — ShopKo, Family Fresh Market and Dick's Fresh Market.

They will be there 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every Saturday through Christmas Eve day (Saturday, Dec. 24). There will also be weekday bell ringers, from 2-8 p.m. The number of weekday shifts depends on many volunteers sign up to ring bells.

The best way to sign up as a bell ringer is to do so online at http://piercewi.volunteerfirst.org/.

For those who prefer to do so by phone, call Hines (River Falls) at 612-987-9584.

Hines said extra shifts can be added beyond those listed online.

“If you don't see a date or time that works for you, please call,” she said. “We are willing to make arrangements for an alternative date or time.

“The River Falls area has several private groups that have dates scheduled that are not listed online.”

In recent years PCSA has fallen short of its fundraising goals. Last year's goal was $35,000, but only $25,634 was raised — about $10,000 short.

Optimistically, Hines said this year's goal is again set at $35,000.

Hines said the key to success is having a long list of volunteers to schedule more and more bell-ringing shifts.

“The more that sign up, the more money we can usually bring in,” she said. “I encourage groups, families, kids of all ages to come out and ring bells — anyone can join us.

For more on this story, see the Nov. 17 print issue of the River Falls Journal.

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