HONESDALE, PA — Those red kettles and bells. They are as much a part of the holiday season as tinsel and wrapping paper. And they are the catalyst for bringing hope to many in Wayne …
HONESDALE, PA — Those red kettles and bells. They are as much a part of the holiday season as tinsel and wrapping paper. And they are the catalyst for bringing hope to many in Wayne County.
Of course, they are the Salvation Army kettle and bell ringers. The tradition began in 1891 with Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee as a way to provide free Christmas dinners to the poor in San Francisco. It soon spread across the United States and then throughout the world, and the funds collected continue to provide for those in need of a helping hand.
In fiscal 2018-19, the Salvation Army came to the assistance of over 1,000 Wayne County families. Hundreds received housing assistance including donations toward rent, heating, electric and water/sewer bills; as well as gifts of clothing, prescriptions and medical cost assistance, furniture and transportation to medical appointments.
In addition, hundreds of families were assisted by programs available through the Salvation Army, including the food pantry; back-to-school shopping; Christmas food baskets; camp scholarships; Christmas Angel Tree; and Journey of Hope, a skills training program.
For some communities, bell ringing is a tradition that extends for decades and for others it is a new experience, but one that will be repeated. And the reasons ringers stand watch at the kettle are as many as the volunteers themselves.
Nicholas Georgi is 31 years old and has rung for three years in Honesdale. He was looking for a way to help people and is now hooked on the experience.
Alberta, 84 years old, takes many shifts at Walmart. She rests in a chair for part of her two-hour shifts, but whether standing or sitting, she greets each passerby with a smile and “Merry Christmas. God bless you,” whether or not they contribute to the kettle. Most do.
Others make the experience a family or group affair. Some don Santa hats or elf costumes, some play appropriate Christmas music, others may even sing. But all do it with the hope that holiday shoppers will stop and drop something into the kettle.
Engaging the donors is an inspiring way to pass the time. Many older gentlemen will reminisce about the Salvation Army providing coffee and doughnuts as they were waiting to ship out to the various fields of war, remembering that other organizations charged the servicemen for what the Salvation Army gave for free. Others will recount that the Salvation Army provided Christmas presents for them or their family members during times of economic distress. Others, however, recall times when the Salvation Army assisted them, asking no questions other that what they could do to serve, when homes were torn apart by physical or other factors.
Beth Ackerman has served as Kettle Coordinator for Wayne County for several years and goes the extra mile to make the volunteer experience as enriching as possible, providing a warm greeting upon arrival to the post, a warm thanks upon the end of the shift, and even a rubber floor mat to ease tired legs and a stool if one wants to sit or lean upon it. Ackerman said she takes sincere pleasure in her position and in getting to know her volunteers, some of whom she only sees at this time of the year.
You can schedule a time to bell ring by calling Ackerman at 570/510-9919. For more information on the Salvation Army, go to its website at www.salvationarmyusa.org.