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Red Kettle Campaign looking for successful year

Breakfast Rotary Club member Ted Heisserer rings the bell in Central Market for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign. This week starts the campaign that raised $39,000 in Becker County last year. All the money stays within the county to help with various projects. The kettles are located at Central Market, Washington Square Mall, Kmart, Walmart and L&M Fleet. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham

Bells are ringing throughout Detroit Lakes.

The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign kicked off this week, with kettles located at five locations around town.

Situated at the same businesses as previous years — Walmart, Kmart, Central Market, L&M Fleet and Washington Square Mall — bell ringers are in place to collect donations, thank those who give and simply offer a smile to passersby.

“God placed it on my heart. I’m doing it for the Lord,” volunteer bell ringer Roxanne Rue said as to why she offers her time each year to ring the bell. This will be the third year she has volunteered her time for the Red Kettle Campaign.

Standing in the Washington Square Mall location, Rue said she enjoys saying hi to people and talking with some people who have a second to chat.

It’s volunteers like Rue that keep the Red Kettle Campaign operating — and making it a successful operation at that. But they are just one of the elements to its success. The other would be the givers.

Last year, the Red Kettle Campaign raised over $39,000 in Becker County, which was up quite a bit from previous years.

“Before that, we were at about the $32,000 mark,” Kettle Chair Michele Baker said.

And all that money stays local.

Though Baker can’t for sure put her finger on why people have given more, she said it’s likely that people can see the ever-growing need.

“People maybe see the need more, with government programs being cut,” she said.

Money from the Red Kettle Campaign provides assistance for a long list of things in Becker County: Emergency assistance; energy assistance; various special projects like stocking the shelves at the Becker County Food Pantry with diapers and wipes; the Back to School Project, which provides school supplies for children in Becker County schools; the Winter Gear project, which provides the county’s less fortunate families with jackets, boots and mittens; and the Nursing Home project, which provides area nursing home residents with a special gift at Christmas time.

Baker said the way to raise the largest amount possible for those charities is to man the kettle.

“It’s important to provide bell ringers on the day (that an) organization is assigned,” she said. “We do so much better when the kettles are manned. If they are unable to fill their assigned day, please call me so we can try to recruit others.”

Besides the various individuals who call Baker and offer to volunteer, there are several service clubs, organizations and businesses that also encourage their members and employees to ring the bell and make a difference.

One group that rings the bell the first week of the campaign every year is the Breakfast Rotary Club in Detroit Lakes.

“We have 21-22 service projects we participate in and around the Detroit Lakes area,” said Breakfast Rotary Club President Doug Gillam. “Wherever a recognizable organization needs help or assistance, it’s just part of what we do.

“Our motto is service above self, so wherever we can provide service… It’s just something we do. We help where we can. We are very involved in the Detroit Lakes community and that’s one of the ways we do it.”     

Usually the Red Kettle Campaign starts the week of Thanksgiving, but Thanksgiving is late this year.

“We just figured that even though Thanksgiving got pushed out a week, we figured we’d leave it at the start date of the 18th because that first week is always when Breakfast Rotary rings for us,” Baker said.

Another volunteer this year bringing a little extra sparkle to the kettle campaign is Miss Northwest Chantal Wilson, who will be ringing the bell at L&M Fleet on Dec. 21. Pageant organizer Cindy Moore said she’s hoping to get other royalty to sign up and volunteer their time as well.

While it’s understandable that most people who agree to volunteer their time want to stay warm while they ring, there is a great need for ringers at the Walmart location.

“Same old cry for help out there,” Baker said of getting volunteers to man the Walmart kettle.

Walmart won’t allow bells ringers inside the building, so it’s more difficult to get volunteers to stand outside in the weather elements. The store also won’t allow an empty kettle to sit; there has to be a ringer there at all times the kettle is out.

“We’re really looking for some hearty Minnesotans to be out there and ring the bell,” she said with a laugh.

Anyone interested in volunteering their time to ring the Salvation Army bell for the Red Kettle Campaign can contact Michele Baker at 218-846-0379 or 218-234-9414.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.