A familiar sound of the season is first being heard today across Iowa. The Salvation Army is kicking off its annual Miracle of the Bell campaign, as volunteers ring bells beside red kettles on street corners and in malls to collect spare change. Arvid Huisman, spokesman for the agency in central Iowa, says this year’s campaign will feature actual red kettles, in addition to virtual red kettles via the Salvation Army website
Huisman says individuals, groups and businesses can set up online kettles and then they can use the provided software to e-mail friends, family and business contacts to make contributions to the Salvation Army through the on-line kettles. He says volunteers are needed across Iowa to ring bells — standing beside the real kettles. He says there’s another website that can streamline the process, " ringbells.org ".
Huisman says you can select the location, the day and then choose a two-hour shift within the day to volunteer as a bell ringer and the Salvation Army will e-mail you back to confirm. The website covers bell ringers in: Boone, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Iowa City, Mason City and Muscatine. He says all money raised from the kettle campaign stays in the community where it was collected.
The goal for central Iowa alone is over 1.2 million dollars, which includes Boone, Fort Dodge, Marshalltown, Newton, Ottumwa and Des Moines. Huisman says the money raised in Des Moines, for example, is used for a host of projects just in the capitol city. He says the Family Services office in Des Moines offers emergency supplies of groceries to families in need, it provides rent and mortgage assistance, there’s an infant services division that can provide infant formula and disposable diapers — "and that’s just the tip of the iceberg."
In Des Moines last year, the Salvation Army helped more than 1,000 households by distributing 35-hundred meals and nearly 2,500 Christmas toys. Also, the Des Moines Corps helped more than 300 women inmates at the state prison in Mitchellville send toys and gifts to their children. The bell-ringing campaign will run through December 24th on every day but Sundays and Thanksgiving Day. He says about 60-percent of the money raised by the Salvation Army all year comes in during this single six-week effort.