Some of Maj. George Windham’s hopes of reaching his holiday goal lie with the people who have been ringing Salvation Army bells for the past few weeks.
By Jan. 15, Windham, the commanding officer for the Salvation Army in Boone County, wants to have raised $250,000 — $7,000 more than last year. Through bell ringers and private donations, the Salvation Army has raised about $170,000 so far.
Seth Gordon, an MU senior in the Delta Upsilon fraternity, took it upon himself to solicit volunteer bell ringers from MU fraternities and sororities.
“I am a firm believer that one person can make a difference,” Gordon said. “I know the Salvation Army has fun, easy things to do, and bell ringing was one of them. People loved it.”
Windham says he has seen more volunteer bell ringers this year than he saw in the past eight years in Columbia or Champagne, Ill., where he used to live. The constant flow of volunteers has kept most locations occupied. The bell ringers have raised about $70,000 this year, $4,000 more than last year.
Windham estimates that about 1,000 people have volunteered to be bell ringers this year. Each volunteer saves the Salvation Army $5.75 an hour. That’s the cost to employ one of the organization’s paid bell ringers.
“If we weren’t paying them to bell ring, we would be giving them vouchers,” Windham said. “This gives them more dignity because they can go out and earn their own Christmas.”
Windham hoped to raise $75,000 before the bells stopped ringing Christmas Eve. This means the other $175,000 must come from mail-in contributions.
The national Salvation Army office mails out some individual appeals, but the organization also relies on people taking the initiative to contribute.
Because not everyone knows they can simply send in donations, Windham has spent the last month on TV and radio shows explaining the need for mail-in contributions.
“People need to just realize they can just send money in,” Windham said.
Money collected by seasonal bell ringers and mail-in contributions last holiday season accounted for about 16 percent of the $1.5 million received.
Although money collected during the holidays goes to programs year-round, a generous portion goes directly to Christmas activities such as Christmas vouchers and the Salvation Army Toy Drive. Both allow the families to make their selections personal.
Vouchers can be used by families and individuals to purchase their choice of holiday food, while the Toy Drive enables parents to choose gifts for their children.
This season, 1,200 families — about 200 more than last year — needed Christmas assistance.