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Red kettles count on enthusiastic bell ringers

Kettle coordinators Deanna Hines (left) and Margaret Volenec encourage volunteers to sign up to ring bells for the Salvation Army red kettles stationed in River Falls and Ellsworth. It’s a fun tradition for many, and vital to fundraising efforts. Photo courtesy of Deanna Hines

As the holiday season kicks off, the tinkling of Salvation Army bells will waft through the air, beckoning shoppers to drop coins, bills and checks into the waiting Red Kettles, stationed throughout area communities.

This year's Pierce County campaign will run Nov. 24 through Dec. 23 at locations in River Falls and Ellsworth, said Pierce County Kettle Coordinator Deanna Hines.

"We are very thankful for the people who donate as well as the people who ring bells," Hines said.

Red kettles can be found 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays at Nilssen's and Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery in Ellsworth, and 4-8 p.m. Fridays and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays at Shopko and Family Fresh Foods in River Falls.

Last year's kettle campaign brought in $24,021; this year's goal is $35,000.

Achieving this goal would not be possible without the donors, of course, but also the dedicated people who volunteer their time to ring bells.

"We have well over 300 bell ringers between both cities," Hines said. "We get many groups that help us out too, like the Lions, Boy Scouts, church groups, school groups, etc., and even some local businesses that will take a day to ring."

She encourages small groups to ring together. Not only is it more fun, but it's safer, she said. Plus, Salvation Army can always use more bell ringers.

"We need lots!" Hines said. "There are about 150 shifts to cover, and between the four locations, so we encourage small groups to ring together."

Bell ringing has become a tradition for many, including Hines and Ellsworth Kettle Coordinator Margaret Volenec.

"Both Margaret and I have people that help out every year because they enjoy it and have made a family tradition out of it," Hines said. "It is fun! Many people sing Christmas carols or bring music and dance around. Some even give out candy canes. It helps to get people in the holiday mood."

As for funds raised, 86 percent stays in Pierce County to help families in need, going toward things such as rent, utilities, transportation, food and lodging, to name a few.

"It is rewarding," Hines said of ringing bells. "Besides just bringing in donations, people love to be greeted when they walk into the stores and see the excitement the bell ringers generate."

If there is not a kettle in your area, you can contact a kettle coordinator to send in a donation, Hines said.

If interested in ringing bells in River Falls, contact Hines at 612-987-9584 or

If interested in ringing bells in Ellsworth, contact Volenec at 612-644-4452 or

You can also sign up at Volunteers can request a different shift time if the ones listed do not work for them by calling Hines or Volenec.

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in February 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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