The Halloween candy is eaten, snow has fallen and blanketed our world, and thoughts are turning to Thanksgiving and Christmas.
On November 8 at 10 a.m., a tradition unlike any at Christmas began, the Salvation Army bell ringing campaign. For more than 130 years, the Salvation Army bells have rung in Cedar Rapids, the familiar ting-a-ling, the smiling faces, the groups spreading joy among shoppers are all as integral to Christmas as wrapping presents, baking cookies and singing carols.
But, just what do those kettles represent and what do they provide to many in our community?
The Salvation Army was founded on the principle that all people deserve the basic amenities of life, food, shelter and compassion. To many of us, those are everyday needs that we embrace without thought, but for others, the questions of where the next meal will come from, how will I pay my bills, where is safe place for my children to learn and love, The Salvation Army is the answer.
In 2018, the Salvation Army in Cedar Rapids helped over 40,000 people in Linn County through the hard times when life throws you a curve ball. We provided over 35,000 meals, 2,300 food boxes and 735 households were assisted with rent and/or utilities payments. Also, 2,250 children received toys at Christmas, youth were provided a safe environment for learning and seniors a welcome place for fellowship. The staff and volunteers of the Salvation Army work tirelessly to make sure these services, and many more, are available to those in need, but it takes everyone in the community to help raise up their neighbors.
Our local Christmas Campaign provides 45 percent of the Salvation Army’s operating budget and this year our goal is $714,000. The campaign is threefold, we raise funds through our bell ringing, through mail appeals and through online donations. The Red Kettle portion will run through Christmas Eve with over 8,400 volunteer hours needing to be filled. We ring at over 25 locations in the Cedar Rapids area, Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., giving bell ringers a wide range of locations and times. Businesses, organizations, churches, schools and families are all bell ringing this season, but we still need you to fill all the locations. Signing up is easy, go to www.registertoring.com or call us at (319) 364-9131 if you need assistance. Just two hours of your time will help those in need in our community.
Bell Ringing is just one of the many projects we are working on this time of year. We will have a community Thanksgiving meal on Wednesday, November 27 and Christmas meal on Thursday, December 19 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at our facility. Join us for great food and fellowship, all are welcome.
Finally, in conjunction with Toys for Tots, we are in the process of collecting toys to be distributed to those families in need. On Saturday, November 30, Theisen’s will host their annual “Stuff the Truck” and final toy collection will be Thursday, December 5, with a daylong toy drop off at Fleet Farm in partnership with KGAN/KFXA. Bring any new toys to us as we stuff the truck with toys that will be given to families, providing that special joy on the face of a child that can only be possible on Christmas morning.
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On Christmas Day, as your family and friends gather to open presents, eat a filling Christmas meal, laugh and bask in the warmth of the holiday, remember that you have made a difference to so many in our community so that they can have a merry Christmas by giving the gift of hope through bell ringing, toys and compassion. After all, it’s not Christmas until you bell-ring!
Shalla Ashworth is the development and communications director for The Salvation Army.