The holiday season is upon us. That means Christmas carols (and assorted secular winter holiday songs) on the radio, lights strung up on trees and eaves, Santa Claus and his hardworking elves at the mall, and — of course — red-clad men and women, ringing bells and tending a kettle outside the doors of supermarkets and other large stores.
But the Salvation Army in Washington County is worried this winter. It hasn't seen the usual outpouring of interest from community members interested in serving as bell-ringers, whether as volunteers or paid seasonal employees.
"We don't know why people don't want to be bell-ringers," said Brenda Fries, a Salvation Army parishioner and volunteer. She added, "We're just not getting people in to fill out applications."
Bell-ringers solicit donations that go toward the Salvation Army's service work. The Salvation Army is both a Christian church and a charity that ramps up its efforts during the holiday season. Marcos Roman, pastor for the Salvation Army's Tualatin Valley Citadel, said bell-ringer collections make up a significant part of the Salvation Army's annual budget.
"If we don't have people bell-ringing, then we don't have the help with our budget," Roman said.
Among other charitable work, the Salvation Army provides food boxes for people in need, serves as a "clearinghouse" for other organizations' giving programs, and gives toys and clothing to children, according to Roman.
The bell-ringers make all that possible with the money they collect.
"It doesn't go to some big pot in the state," Roman said of the collections. "It all stays in Washington County. So all the money collected in our kettles stays within the county."
He added, "When you give to the Salvation Army here in Washington County, you can expect to have the change occur here in Washington County."
The Salvation Army usually hires anywhere between 35 and 60 people to work as bell-ringers in Washington County during the holiday season, Roman said. It augments those paid workers with volunteers.
"When we have a paid bell-ringer, we're providing somebody with a job for Christmas, and we're helping them out," Roman said, adding that volunteers who do not want payment for their work are "a blessing to us."
Volunteers also assist with the Salvation Army's toy distribution and other seasonal work, Roman noted.
Anyone interested in applying to be a bell-ringer can call 503-640-4311 or visit the Salvation Army's website for Washington County to volunteer.
The official start to bell-ringing season this year is Friday, Nov. 16. Bell-ringing continues every day until Christmas, except on Sundays.
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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