EDITORIAL: Beat the Grinch, give to bellringhers

Whidbey Islanders should all take it personally that some reprobate robbed a Salvation Army bell ringer last Wednesday outside Oak Harbor Post Office.

The man simply walked up, cut a wire, grabbed the kettle and dashed away. It is estimated $200 was taken, certainly enough to brighten the Christmas of a needy family or two.

Volunteers from throughout Whidbey Island man the Salvation Army stations every Christmas season, ringing their bells for donations. This is entirely a volunteer effort, with all proceeds going to those in need — including the modest hourly wages given to the bell ringers.

“Every penny that goes into that kettle is used to help locally right here on the island,” explained Digger O’Dell in an interview. Since 1990, O’Dell has organized the Salvation Army effort for the North Whidbey Shrine Club.

It’s a time consuming effort that requires recruiting and scheduling volunteers, providing them with kettles and bells, and counting and tracking the money donated by the citizens of Whidbey Island. Generally more than $35,000 is collected, which is a huge help to those in need.

That someone would run up and steal money from this charitable effort is almost beyond imagination. If the thief was needy, he need only have asked for help. More likely he was looking for drug or alcohol money and took it anywhere he could find it. Hopefully, he will be able to spend his Christmas in a safe, cozy place far away from the cold night air. Island County Jail fits that description.

Meanwhile, islanders can make up for this bit of Christmas spirit heresy by giving more generously than ever next time they see a bell ringer. They’ll be out in force in Oak Harbor through Christmas Eve. O’Dell said he would like to beat the all-time fundraising total of $36,900 set last year, and he also could use some more volunteer bell ringers. For information visit the Web site at www.redkettle.com or call Digger O’Dell at 679-2760.

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