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Salvation Army of bell ringers out in force in Oak Harbor

Dorothy Johnson helps her son, T.J., 2, put money in the Salvation Army Kettle while his 1-year-old brother, Riley, waits his turn. - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Dorothy Johnson helps her son, T.J., 2, put money in the Salvation Army Kettle while his 1-year-old brother, Riley, waits his turn.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

Hear ringing? It’s not the phone, it’s the Salvation Army.

The jingle-jangles heard ‘round town are a multitude of volunteers as they draw shoppers’ attention to the iconic, red Salvation Army kettle.

Coins, bills and checks are all accepted by the kettle, which will be outside Wal-Mart Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., and possibly later if more volunteers sign up. Kettles will also be at Safeway and Kmart in Oak Harbor.

This Saturday, Dec. 5, starting at 9 a.m., Boys and Girls Club members ranging in age from 2 through 18 will be doing the electric slide in front of the Oak Harbor Wal-Mart to lighten shoppers’ mood and spread some holiday cheer while soliciting donations for the Salvation Army. Look for lots of kids in club T-shirts, or just follow the music.

All donations collected in Oak Harbor will be returned to island charitable organizations including the North Whidbey Help House, Opportunity Council and the Boys and Girls Club, said Jim Bruner, an Oak Harbor Salvation Army volunteer coordinator.

A variety of local clubs and organizations pitch in during the course of the holiday season. The volunteers collected more than $20,000 last year during the holidays thanks to the volunteers, which included the Oak Harbor High School’s Key Club, Torch Club, NJROTC and ensembles from the All-Island Community Band that played mini-concerts at Wal-Mart to add to the holiday spirit.

There are no paid bell ringers in this town, only good old fashioned volunteers, just the way the Salvation Army began 144 years ago in 1865.

The Salvation Army began employing seasonal bell ringers to help people make ends meet, said Stacy Howard, community relations director for the Northwest Division of the Salvation Army.

For every $1 donated, 83 cents goes back into the community, she said.

Last year’s season of giving got off to a rough start when a thief snatched a Salvation Army kettle outside Wal-Mart while the bell ringer went inside for a soda. The heist took place just one week into the campaign.

The theft was the only case reported to the Northwest Division of the Salvation Army, which includes all of Washington state, northern Idaho and western Montana, she said.

There’s no extra security this year as a result of the kettle-jacking.

“It doesn’t really happen that often,” Howard said.

The kettles are already locked, chained to a stand which weight about 20 pounds, and very difficult to get into, she said.

This year’s campaign will continue through Christmas Eve. Call 675-8315, or email saredkettles@gmail.com for information on volunteer opportunities.

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